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HI-EMA Secures Consistent Supply of Liquid Oxygen Amid State Shortage Due to COVID-19

September 3, 2021, 5:55 PM HST
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The Hawaiʻi Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA) has taken steps to secure a consistent supply of liquid oxygen (O2) from the mainland to the state of Hawaiʻi in order to meet the increased demands brought upon by the recent COVID-19 case count surge.

Working in coordination with state partners, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Matson Shipping, and medical gas producers AirLiquide (AirGas) and Matheson Tri-Gas, an expedited sealift has been organized and is currently underway departing from the Port of Los Angeles.

Two ISO (International Organization of Standardization) containers suitable to transport medical grade oxygen, containing approximately 3,500 gallons, are expected at the Port of Honolulu by Sunday, Sept. 5. Another two ISO containers are scheduled for arrival by Wednesday, Sept. 8.

Depleted containers will be flown back to the mainland for refilling before shipping back to Hawaiʻi, creating a rotating supply for use across the state.

Additional ISO containers are being sought for lease, procurement, or retrofitting for medical-grade O2, and other oxygen generators are being pursued in order to expand this rotation of a critical resource. Local gas-producing facilities have also enhanced their output of liquid oxygen to fortify the supply available in the state.

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Additional conservation efforts by hospitals and medical facilities across the state, mandated by Governor David Ige’s Executive Order (No. 21-06), have made immediate impacts to the current daily consumption statewide for medical grade oxygen, which is 99% pure, and which has increased approximately 250% since the beginning of August.

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“The demands on our medical system brought about by the spread of this virus are unprecedented and put a severe strain on capabilities to treat all patients,” HI-EMA officials stated. “The Delta variant is a very different strain of the coronavirus and significantly more transmissible. Activities during extended holiday weekends, such as this upcoming Labor Day, also impact the capacities and resources of our hospitals. This is a preventable situation.”

This holiday weekend residents are advised to avoid large gatherings as much as possible. Other guidance includes:

  • Wear a mask when you leave your home or if there are at-risk members in your household.
  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Get tested if feeling ill.
  • Get vaccinated now and do your part in helping to fight this pandemic.

“It is up to all of us, individually, to behave responsibly in our actions and help mitigate the stress to our medical facilities and protect our ʻohana,” HI-EMA officials added.

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