Q: Should I still get tested for COVID after I get the vaccine?
Michael Shea, MD, Intensivist & Chief Medical Director, Maui Health: If you have symptoms after getting the first or second COVID vaccine, self-isolate for a day or two and wait to see if they go away. It’s not unusual for people to have side effects, including fatigue, chills, fever, headache and soreness at the vaccine site. These symptoms are caused by the immune system activating in response to the vaccine and usually resolve within 48 hours. If symptoms don’t go away after a few days, get a COVID test — you might have been exposed to COVID before you were vaccinated. So if you do develop symptoms of COVID-19, including fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, chills, body aches, headache or loss of taste or smell, you should still get a COVID test, even if you’ve been vaccinated.
About two weeks after you get the second dose of the vaccine, you should be protected from COVID-19. While no vaccine is 100 percent effective, the vaccines that have received emergency use authorization from the FDA are more than 94 percent effective. This greatly reduces the risk of getting sick with COVID-19. However, studies are still being done on whether someone who has received both doses of the COVID vaccine can still carry the virus, and therefore spread it, without ever feeling sick. That is why it is still so important that everyone, those vaccinated and not vaccinated, continue to be vigilant in protecting themselves and their loved ones. The fight against COVID is not over. The vaccines bring us a glimmer of hope. But until more vaccine becomes available and more people are vaccinated, it is critical that we continue to be accountable for our own protective actions and decisions. Together, we can help end this pandemic.
Q: With the recent increase in COVID cases on Maui, is the hospital at capacity?
Mike Rembis, CEO, Maui Health: Last week, Maui Memorial Medical Center was operating at a high capacity and this week has slowed down some. It’s not unusual for the hospital to be busy during the winter months, and we are currently within normal to slightly higher-than-normal range. But, it has been a busy time for our nursing supervisors, who, with the guidance of nursing leadership, help to move patients from the emergency room where some need to be held until an inpatient bed becomes available. And, this high census is not because of an abundance of COVID-19 patients, but rather the impact COVID-19 has had on our long-term care facilities and their inability to take newly discharged hospital patients. With recent delays in admissions to our local long-term care facilities, we have had to keep patients who don’t need acute hospital care longer than anticipated. This is slowly improving and what is important to understand is that hospital capacity, or census, fluctuates constantly; it is not a fixed number or status. Most times you will see the census change from one hour to the next as we continue to move and discharge patients.
Any census numbers reported are more like a snapshot in time, but we do provide updates to the community on a weekly basis. We encourage you to review our weekly updates and submit any questions on our website at www.mauihealth.org/contact or by leaving a message at 242-2273. You can find weekly updates and answers to your questions during employee or community town halls (all posted publicly on our website), this Healthwise column (first and third Thursday), or in our weekly radio interviews every Thursday morning at 7:19 a.m. on KPOA 93.5 FM.
While our census has been high, it is still manageable, and we have not had to cancel any surgeries, which would be one of the first considerations as part of our surge plan to address any capacity issues.
In addition to reducing outpatient and elective procedures, our surge plan includes the ability to increase from 219 to 300 beds, a medical-grade tent to expand beds with a generator and negative-pressure rooms, a 60-day supply of PPE including N95 masks, 42 state-of-the-art ventilators and 18 additional transport and bridge ventilators, and a plan to increase staffing as needed.
Maui Memorial is committed to compassionate, safe, quality care, and providing timely and transparent communication to our community. You can find more information about our surge plan, and the precautions we are taking to protect our community and employees, on our website at www.mauihealth.org/safe.
* Physicians, providers and administrative staff who practice at Maui Health System hospitals and clinics answer questions from the public in “Healthwise Maui,” which appears on the first and third Thursdays of the month. Maui Health System operates Maui Memorial Medical Center, Maui Memorial Medical Center Outpatient Clinic, Kula Hospital & Clinic and Lana’i Community Hospital and accepts all patients. To submit a question, go to the website at mauihealth.org/healthwise.