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VIDEO: Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi and Hawaii health care leaders urge the public to get boosted, tested amid omicron surge

  • VIDEO COURTESY MAYOR RICK BLANGIARDI

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Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi and Hawaii health care leaders today held a press conference to cajole residents to get tested and boosted amid the recent COVID-19 surge in omicron cases.

Blangiardi did not announce any policy changes today even as the state marked a new single-day record of 6,252 infections on Tuesday. Hawaii Department of Health officials reported 3,026 new confirmed and probable coronavirus infections on Oahu today.

“We’re not planning on adding any restrictions right now,” Blangiardi said.

Hawaii health care leaders said today the state’s surge is close to hitting its peak. The state’s documented infection rate last week was four times than what it was during the peak of the delta surge, according to Healthcare Association of Hawaii president and CEO Hilton Raethel.

”That’s pretty staggering,” he said. “… That is impacting all segments of our community.”

Hawaii health officials said the state’s electronic data collection system for cases has become so overwhelmed by the number of test results that it stopped processing negative test results on Sunday. The move should provide a more accurate daily count of positive cases, but the change means that the state will not be able to calculate the case positivity rate, officials said.

“The testing resources are limited, but we’re doing everything we can do to help,” said Blangiardi, recommending individuals stay home if they feel sick.

Healthcare Association of Hawaii president and CEO Hilton Raethel said the state plans to bring in an additional 400 health care workers from the mainland this coming weekend to start next week. That will help to relieve Hawaii hospitals that have close to 2,000 health care workers statewide currently in quarantine or isolation due to COVID-19 exposure, he said.

“We have sufficient oxygen, ventilators and PPE or personal protective equipment,” Raethel said. “Our biggest challenge continues to be the adequacy of our workforce. The rest of January will continue to be challenging for our health care workforce and the impact of the omicron surge will extend well into February.”

Blangiardi said Hawaii’s hospitals are under control and coronavirus-related fatalities are down, but urged individuals to get boosted.

Blangiardi said his administration is still evaluating the target date of Feb. 18 for adding the booster shot to the Safe Travels Hawaii program, which allows trans-Pacific travelers to Hawaii to skip the state’s five-day mandatory self-quarantine requirement as long as they can provide proof of their full vaccination status or negative COVID-19 test.

The latest Hawaii COVID-19 vaccine summary says 2,659,585 vaccine doses have been administered through state and federal distribution programs as of today, up 7,389 from a day earlier. Health officials say that 75.3% of the state’s population is now fully vaccinated, 81.2% have received at least one dose, and 30.7% have received a third dose.

“It’s important for you to keep your bubble closed,” said Queen’s Health Systems president and CEO Jill Hoggard Green, adding that individuals should get tested even if they do not have any symptoms.

Green said about 10% of Queen’s employees have been affected by COVID-19 either were exposed to the virus by family members or gotten the virus themselves.

“You can help us by staying well, wearing masks, keep your physical distances,” Green said.

Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals—Hawaii Market president Greg Christian urged the public to be diligent and minimize their risk of exposure by getting boosted.

“We are in the middle of the battle and together, we can win this battle,” he said, adding that 80% of the COVID-19 patients hospitalized at Kaiser have not been boosted.

Earlier this month, Blangiardi announced indoor events with over 1,000 people on Oahu would be limited to 50% capacity to minimize the spread of the virus.

Watch a replay of the livestream video above.


Editor’s Note: This story is developing and will be updated as soon as more information becomes available.


Correction: Clarifies Greg Christian quote on COVID-19 patient statistics.
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