Mayor: Oahu prison virus numbers must remain in city’s count

HONOLULU — The number of coronavirus cases among Oahu’s prison population must continue to be included in local case counts to monitor available health care resources and hospital space, Honolulu’s mayor said.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell responded to critics who have said outbreaks in the island’s prisons are raising Honolulu’s coronavirus case averages, Hawaii News Now reported Monday.

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At least 95 inmates tested positive for the virus recently at Waiawa Correctional Facility. The outbreak has been included in Oahu’s daily COVID-19 totals, potentially preventing the county from moving into the next tier of its recovery framework.

The seven-day average of total new cases must remain between 20 and 49 to advance from Tier 2 to Tier 3. The positive test rate must remain between 1% and 2.49%.

Additional cases caused by isolated outbreaks are an element of the recovery framework with which Honolulu needs to contend, Caldwell said.

“It was recommended that we not separate (the prison cases) out of our system, because these folks who get stick in our prisons may need hospital care,” Caldwell said.

The last public shutdown was driven partly by hospital intensive care units filling and staffing in the facilities being stretched, so city officials believe the prison figures must also be included, Caldwell said.

“Whether you’re in prison or not, we have to protect all lives,” Caldwell said.

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The tiered approach to virus recovery needs to be followed regardless of how demoralizing outbreaks in places such as prisons can be, Caldwell said.

“Right now, our framework is automatic. You snap back after a week over 100 (average new cases per day),” Caldwell said. “The rest of us need to be really, really careful. We need to leave the framework in place. Otherwise, it’s not a framework, it’s a wish list.”

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