US Surgeon General in Hawaii to Help Stop COVID-19
The US Surgeon General is in Hawaii to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. General Vice Admiral (VADM) Jerome M. Adams, M.D., M.P.H. came to Hawaii as he felt it is important to support the state because of its surging all-time high level of COVID-19 coronavirus cases and deaths by bringing resources to the state from the federal government.
The Surgeon General explained to get control of this pandemic, this is going to require surge testing, contact tracing, and isolation. At today’s press conference, he pointed to officers of the United States Health Commission Corps in blue uniforms who will be walking around the islands for the next 2 weeks. These officers are here because the Task Force and the President of the United States have sent a team out here to work with the Governor, Mayor, and council members to determine what more can be done. They will be working to determine why the cases are spreading and how to quickly stamp out the new cases.
His advice was simple: Wear a mask, wash your hands, keep your distance, and get tested.
Mayor Caldwell said: “Let’s get real. We are at war. We continue to seek the answers that we are missing. Today is about building our tools. People are struggling, and we know that.” He said those that are paying the greatest price are our kupuna who are living in fear and in isolation in some cases, our children, and our families who have members stricken with the virus or who have family members who have died. He said the only way to win a war is by all of us working together.
Governor Ige explained that on the first day of surge testing, 6,028 registered to test, and 4,800 were tested. No city in this country has hit 5,000 tests in one day, and we almost got there. The goal is to get tested in the communities where it is needed the most. To reach 10,821 for the first 2 days is commendable.
Surgeon General Adams said we should expect the positivity rate to go up as more people are tested, and it is the positivity rate that will determine if the current Stay at Home order should be extended beyond 2 weeks. He explained that it takes about 2 weeks for the virus to show itself, meaning for someone who has potentially been exposed to show symptoms or to test positive which is where the basis of a 14-day quarantine comes from.
So, for the next several days, he said we will likely see cases and positivity rise because we are putting testing in communities that we know are hard hit with less social distancing. At the end of the 2 weeks, we will be able to make informed and intelligent decisions about whether the Stay at Home order needs to be extended. He reiterated that this all depends on the people of Hawaii to not gather in large groups and to practice safe distancing and wearing masks.
The Surgeon General responded to a question about whether contact tracers are being prepared to keep contact with additional tests since 5,000 tests is more than twice what is happening now. He answered that contact tracing is finding out who tested positive, asking who they have been around, and going to those people to make sure it stops spreading.
He stated that while more people are being trained to do contact tracing, “it’s not rocket science.” He said, “If you have tested positive, stay home. If you were around someone who tested positive, stay home. You don’t have to wait for a contact tracer to do the right thing.”
Governor Ige indicated that with the resources available to the various governmental entities – his office, the Mayors’ offices, and City & County and State offices, he believes this virus can be brought under control.
He added: “This second shutdown is going to require more sacrifice. We beat it back before in March and April and we can beat it again. Let’s keep struggling, learning, and healing together.
The Governor said another $25 million has been earmarked to help small businesses as we re-open again. More fuel is being put into the economy, so we come out on a new side where we are more resilient before this virus struck.
In response to a question about field hospitals, Governor Ige said they are putting additional bed capacity in existing hospitals, a tent can also be added for more bed spaces. The Mayor also said that he has offered Blaisdell Center for a hospital for maybe those who have not tested positive and can be taken care of in an air-conditioned environment. At this point it is not necessary, but it is there to take advantage of should it be needed.
Mayor Caldwell stated that it is part of the plan to include Aloha Stadium for testing, and the Department of Health gave the approval for the hiring of more contract tracers.
Regarding quarantine sites, an agreement has been signed with a Waikiki hotel to use for those who have tested positive. Negotiation are ongoing with other hotels so more patients can be moved into those spaces as well.
“Reopening is not a light switch. It should be like a dimmer switch,” the Surgeon General said adding that reopening must be done cautiously. In this last instance when reopening happened, there were crowded gatherings on the beach, people were not wearing masks, and funerals and religious gatherings did not respect social distancing and mask wearing. Reopening must be done with respect for the virus and with common sense. He stated that New York is less than 1 percent positivity now, and Hawaii can do the same.
After these next 2 weeks of surge testing, how much daily testing will need to be continued depends on how successful we are in driving down the virus over the next 14 days.
Surgeon General Adams ended by saying that Hawaii has good reason to be concerned. Pacific Islanders, the Filipino community, and tightly packed living conditions are suffering the most. But he stated that Hawaii people also all know each other – something that can’t be said in all big cities. He said that it is this camaraderie that will help get us through this pandemic. He said that the health care on Oahu is excellent, and support needs to be provided to neighbor islands as well. He stated that he is hopeful that if we all do our part then this will be over more quickly.
Before Surgeon General Adams had to leave to return to the mainland, he said that his kids are begging him to come back to Hawaii and take them to the beach. He said he is counting on us as a dad of 3 kids to make it where he can come back with his kids either over the holidays or in the spring.