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Hawaii hospital CEO says virus could outstrip state capacity

August 5, 2020 GMT

HONOLULU (AP) — The head of a hospital group warned the growing number of coronavirus cases in Hawaii is on track to outstrip the state’s capacity to provide medical services to fight the illness.

Hawaii Pacific Health CEO Ray Vara made the assessment following a meeting Monday of the state House of Representatives Select Committee on COVID-19 Economic and Financial Preparedness, Hawaii Public Radio reported Tuesday.

“If we continue on these current trends of triple digit numbers for another seven to 10 days, we’re going to begin stressing those capacities pretty quickly,” Vara said.

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Hawaii Pacific Health operates four hospitals on Oahu and Kauai, including Kapiolani Medical Center, Straub Medical Center, Pali Momi Medical Center, and Wilcox Medical Center.

The group has built analytical models of the virus spread for months with the goal of preventing the illness from overwhelming the state’s health care system.

The growth in new cases was predicted by the hospital group’s models until recently. But the state no longer appears to be maintaining an effective testing and contact tracing program, while members of the public are not adhering to face mask and social distancing guidelines, Vara said.

“All evidence is that there’s breakdowns of those assumptions, both on the state side in terms of being able to keep up with contact tracing, as well as the individual personal behaviors around the community,” Vara said.

Large public gatherings at beaches and parks have taken place in recent weeks, including one on Oahu’s North Shore over the weekend that was cited by the state Emergency Management Agency.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.