Hospital sees record COVID patients; jail cases rise to 88
Maui County also reports more than 1,000 cases as surge rolls on
A relentless wave of cases that has overwhelmed state health officials continued to put pressure on major Maui facilities on Thursday, with active infections at the Wailuku jail more than doubling to 88 and the island’s main hospital setting a new record with 44 COVID-19 patients.
The state Department of Public Safety reported 52 positive inmate test results at the Maui Community Correctional Center, increasing the number of active cases from 36 on Wednesday to 88 on Thursday, including 86 inmates and two staff members.
The department also reported Thursday that 162 inmates tested negative for COVID.
No inmates or staff were reported to have been hospitalized, according to the department.
Maui Memorial Medical Center said Thursday that it was caring for a total of 44 patients with COVID-19, including 26 unvaccinated and 18 vaccinated, breaking the previous record of 41 patients set in August during the delta variant-fueled surge.
Four patients are in the intensive care unit, with three unvaccinated and one vaccinated. One unvaccinated patient was on a ventilator.
“MMMC’s census is very busy at over 95 percent capacity with COVID and non-COVID patient care needs,” hospital operator Maui Health said in a news release Thursday afternoon. “However, the hospital is not at an ‘internal emergency’ status as other hospitals around the state have declared. This current surge is stretching hospital resources and capacity and the Emergency Operations Center team is working around the clock to ensure we remain nimble and respond to immediate and potential needs.”
Maui County reported 1,067 new cases on Thursday, including 996 on Maui, 43 on Molokai and 28 on Lanai, putting the county’s seven-day average at 653 new cases a day, according to state Department of Health data. New daily cases in Maui County have increased by 93 percent over the past two weeks, the highest rate in the state. Maui County also had the highest test positivity rate among the four counties at 22 percent before the Health Department had to stop processing negative results starting Sunday because it was inundated with cases.
On Oahu, The Queen’s Health Systems declared an internal state of emergency last week for two of its facilities as hospital admissions outpaced the number of staff. On Wednesday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced it would pay $47.9 million to help cover the costs of hiring 955 medical workers for Hawaii facilities from Jan. 10 through April 1.
State Department of Health spokesperson Brooks Baehr said Thursday that so far, 346 personnel have been brought in to assist — 277 in Honolulu County, 36 in Hawaii County, 21 in Kauai County and 12 in Maui County.
The 12 FEMA nurses arrived Wednesday to help with staffing and care for COVID-19 patients, Maui Health said. Another 10 FEMA nurses are expected next week.
Normally, Maui Memorial has 219 licensed beds but can surge to 300 if needed. Maui Health spokesperson Tracy Dallarda said the hospital doesn’t have a capacity limit specifically for COVID patients because they are included in the hospital’s total census.
As of 6 a.m. Thursday, there were 187 patients in the hospital, according to Dallarda. Of those, 52 were “waitlist patients,” meaning they no longer needed hospital care but had no place to be discharged to, whether that meant a long-term care facility or back to their families.
Dallarda recalled that during the delta variant surge back in the summer, many of the patients were much sicker and much younger; on Aug. 27 when the hospital was caring for 34 COVID patients, 70 percent were under 60 years of age, Maui Health reported at the time. However, with the omicron variant surge, COVID patients at the hospital look a lot like they did at the start of the pandemic — older, fairly evenly split between men and women, with comorbidities as risk factors.
With the rise in patients, Maui Health said that Maui Memorial’s emergency department “is very busy, and patients are waiting longer to be seen and to be admitted to the hospital, if required.” However, Maui Health emphasized that emergency care is always available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and that no one is ever turned away.
Patients needing non-life-threatening care, such as suspected broken bones, wound care, allergies or the flu can access Kula Hospital’s critical access hospital and emergency room. The hospital offers X-Ray and laboratory services and can take care of splinting, suturing and wound care, as well as administer IV fluids and medications. It has a physician on staff in the ER 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And, it also has an on-site laboratory and limited diagnostic imaging capabilities, so patients can be treated for broken bones, infections and other medical needs and health concerns with mostly minimal wait times.
However, those who need immediate care for a heart attack or stroke, for example, should go to Maui Memorial’s emergency room or call 911 for an ambulance, Maui Health said.
“This surge is expected to continue through the next few weeks, which absolutely has an impact on hospital services,” Maui Health said. “We are asking everyone to please do your part, mask up, avoid crowds, wash your hands frequently, stay home if possible, get vaccinated, and most importantly if you qualify, get your booster dose.”
For more information on the hospital’s current case counts, testing, vaccinations and visitor policies, visit mauihealth.org/covid19.
Maui Health is also offering COVID-19 antiviral treatments for anyone who recently tested positive and is at a high risk for severe illness. For more information and to submit a request form, visit mauihealth.org/covidtreatments.
* Colleen Uechi can be reached at email@example.com. Staff Writer Lila Fujimoto also contributed to this report.