Coronavirus Updates

Cruise Ships Returning Amid Surge, But Officials Say They’re Ready

Posted January 8, 2022, 12:58 PM HST

Kaua‘i is in the midst of a surge in new COVID-19 cases, having set a new daily record this week because of the highly transmissible Omicron variant that’s flared through the islands since landing on O‘ahu last month.

Cruise ships are scheduled to return to the Garden Isle, bringing with them thousands of passengers to Kaua‘i’s shores.

Does the formula seem dangerous?

Experts are on alert, but not overly concerned, they said, as Wilcox Medical Center has the plans, resources and experience to handle the volume of new cases, even should they rise.

“Wilcox Medical Center has the capabilities and is prepared to care for patients with and without COVID-19,” Faith Campbell, spokeswoman for Wilcox Health said. “As COVID cases increase, more people are affected in some manner. We are fortunate that our dedicated staff is well equipped for this surge and committed to the health and safety of the people of Kaua‘i.”

Several travel nurses are heading toward Līhu‘e to add to the workforce at the medical center, but hospitals around the state are preparing for even more staffing help, as the final details on an agreement with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, for a program specifically aimed at bolstering medical personnel during the pandemic are being worked out. Those details haven’t been completed, but whatever the amount turns out to be, it will help the staffs across the state.

“We have travel nurses in place at our medical center with more expected to come this month,” Campbell said.

One thing working in hospitals’ favor statewide, at least so far, is that the Omicron variant doesn’t seem to have as severe symptoms as the other variants. It can seem more like a cold to some people who have it rather than the flu.

Less-severe symptoms is not to say the latest variant is a walk in the park for patients.

On Friday, Kaua‘i registered 288 new cases, one fatality, and six people hospitalized. That brought Kauai’s total to 5,256 cumulative cases. On Saturday, the state recorded nearly 200 more new infections for the island.

The Garden Isle’s population is expected to swell this month, too, at least for a few hours at a time.

On Tuesday, the State of Hawai‘i announced that it had reached a port agreement with NCL and Carnival cruise ships that allows for their return to shores around the state. According to the state’s Department of Transportation and the Hawaii Port Call website, cruise ships are scheduled to return to Nawiliwili harbor next week.

The Grand Princess, with 3,006 guests, is scheduled to land at 7 a.m. Jan. 10.

A representative at HDOT on O‘ahu told Kauai News Now that all ships will port in O‘ahu first as a precaution, as the more populous island has the medical resources needed should any of the ships need copious care once they arrive. Enhanced testing measures and Safe Travel Program protocols are a part of the port and travel agreement as well.

“We continue to ask the community to do its part,” Campbell said. “If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19, please consider getting tested and stay at home if you are feeling sick.”

 
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