Hawaii appears to be “out of the red zone” for COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations.
The state Department of Health on Monday reported an average of 484 new cases daily Sept. 12-18.
The state averaged 567 new cases daily Sept. 5-11. An average of 706 cases were reported daily Aug. 30-Sept. 5.
Lt. Gov. Josh Green said during a livestream Monday that Hawaii’s test positivity rate of 5.75% “compares very favorably” to the 8.67% positivity rate of the mainland.
“We’ve also seen a precipitous drop in our hospitalizations,” he said. “That’s very important.”
As of Monday, Green, who also serves as an emergency room physician on the Big Island, said 308 individuals statewide were hospitalized with COVID-19, down 31% from Sept. 3, when 448 people were hospitalized.
“That was really pressing the limits of what we could do safely in our health care system,” he said. “It also ended up making us broach certain other questions, like whether or not we would ever have to invoke these ‘crisis standards of care,’ which I object to.
“So, so many challenges were coming,” he continued. “We were pressed hard, but people took it onto themselves. We did not gather for two weeks, we were careful over Labor Day … a lot more people are getting vaccinated, and so we’ve seen our numbers drop. They’re not low — who would have ever thought we’d be happy about 400 people positive — but they’re a lot lower, which means we have less pressure on our hospital system and we’re able to deliver care better.”
Green said he doesn’t think Hawaii will ever have to ration care, although the state was preparing for that possibility.
With hospitalizations down and more discharges expected in the coming days, “I think we are sufficiently out of the red zone,” he said.
“So, we’re kind of out of the most dangerous zone, but even at a higher number (of hospitalizations), I object to any ‘crisis standard of care,’ which is also called rationing of care,” Green continued.
The Hawaii Crisis Standards of Care were developed by a group of health care leaders throughout the state, and provides guidance for clinicians should demand for critical care resources outstrip supply.
The plan, which has faced criticism from some, will only be enacted if critical care capacity is, or will shortly be, exceeded or if a state of emergency is declared.
According to Green, Hawaii will retain, “in a rolling fashion,” some of the 650 nurses and respiratory therapists brought in to assist during the surge to ensure care for everybody, but the possibility of rationed care “really terrified people.”
Green said he received calls from people asking if the state was really considering rationing care, “and the answer has to be, ‘No.’ We have to find a way.”
“I think that the way that was rolled out was unfortunate, because we had finally moved away from our peak … .” Green said. “We should move heaven and earth to prevent ever rationing care, especially from our seniors.”
Green also was asked about a proposal by Mayor Mitch Roth, currently under evaluation by the state, to publicly identify individuals who opt to quarantine after arriving on the island, instead of offering proof that they have been vaccinated or tested negative for COVID-19.
“It sounds a little harsh. I’m not going to lie,” Green said.
“But it’s good to make people accountable. At this point, a lot of people returning were not adhering to their quarantine, and it sounds like something a thoughtful and somewhat stern prosecutor would do, and that’s what Mayor Roth was. … It does seem a little bit harsh, because we’re trying, in general, to bring down the heat and unite people. If everyone would just do their quarantine or get vaccinated, one or the other, I guess this question would never be raised.
“I’m not going to second-guess him. It’s not personally something I would do, only because that’s bringing out the hammer, real hard,” Green continued. “On the flip side, I don’t want any innocent people catching COVID from those who have chosen not to be vaccinated or not quarantine.
“So it’s his call. I will support him in general, because I know all of the mayors have really wrestled with what’s going on.”
A county spokesman said there was no update on that Roth’s proposal as of Monday.
Email Stephanie Salmons at firstname.lastname@example.org.