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Hospitals Are Implementing Surge Planning as COVID-19 Cases Spike, Gov. David Ige Says

Gov. David Ige on July 30, 2021
Office of Gov. David Ige
Gov. David Ige on July 30, 2021

A day after students began returning to the classroom, Gov. David Ige joined The Conversation to talk about Hawaiʻi's next steps in this phase of the coronavirus pandemic.

Ige said he expects to make a decision about whether to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for state workers "in the next week or so, if not sooner." The policy would follow the lead of the federal government and local hospital systems.

He told Hawaiʻi Public Radio he is talking with union representatives as part of that evaluation.

"Clearly, we anticipate full approval of the vaccines but the federal government proceeding without full approval, at least, lets us know that they feel like they can proceed in that manner," Ige said. "The Delta variant is different than the original COVID-19 virus, and the other variants that we've seen. And so it's a different situation, as you heard all of the discussion from the CDC and elsewhere."

The Healthcare Association of Hawaii said there is now a sense of urgency as the COVID-19 case count soars due to the more contagious delta variant.

Ige said medical facilities are preparing for a rise in hospitalizations.

"The hospitals and the facilities all across the state are implementing surge planning, looking at what they can do to increase capacity of intensive care units," Ige said. "The biggest challenge at this point in time is the staffing issue."

"We can convert an acute care bed into an ICU by adding equipment and other kinds of things, but the staffing required is a lot more intensive. And many of the hospitals would need assistance in getting the staff necessary to be able to handle more cases," he added.

The governor said a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention team is in Hawaiʻi to help analyze the data and develop strategies to stop the increasing case count.

Click the "Listen" button to hear Gov. David Ige's complete interview that aired on The Conversation on Aug. 4, 2021.

Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at ccruz@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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