COVID spike in Oahu prison adds another obstacle to loosening restrictions


HONOLULU (KHON2) — A total of 144 COVID-19 cases and two deaths were reported in Hawaii on Thursday, Dec. 3. One elected official gave an explanation as to why the case numbers spiked so high.

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There were 118 new cases are on Oahu, 14 in Maui County, seven on the Big Island, two on Kauai and three were diagnosed out of state. There are now 1,288 active cases in Hawaii and 246 deaths have been reported as of Dec. 3. Lt. Gov. Josh Green says there is a reason for the spike.

“Today, 32 cases came from the prison, from, you know from our reports so that, you know, that is substantial. And of course also we’re now seeing catch up cases from the long weekend. We’ve been about two days back so I expect that’s what you’re seeing right now but we’ll watch it every day,” said Green.

The spike on Oahu makes it harder for the island to move out of Tier 2 into Tier 3 and allow for fewer restrictions. Mayor Kirk Caldwell is now urging prisons to take more precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Caldwell points out that Oahu is seeing a slight surge possibly caused by Thanksgiving gatherings on Nov. 26. He is also asking all Oahu residents to remain disciplined as the holiday shopping season approaches.

Caldwell is making a plea to those who run the prisons to take all necessary precautions to prevent any more surges.

“Make sure that those coming in are as protected as possible, whether it’s temperature taking, whether it’s regular test taking, whether it’s wearing the proper PPE,” said Caldwell.

Caldwell says prison numbers have to be included in the daily total because inmates have as much impact in our healthcare resources as everyone else.

“Because unlike the rest of our country, there’s only a limited number of hospitals. You can’t put someone in an ambulance and take them across county lines to another hospital,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Public Safety says it is following CDC guidelines. Staff at Waiawa are equipped with personal protective equipment and are monitoring inmates for symptoms and checking their temperature twice daily.

Even if Waiawa’s Dec. 3 cases were subtracted from the total there would still be 80 cases reported for Oahu, a higher number then the last few days.

“Sacrifice a little more for a better future, be disciplined and don’t give up, and love each other and the community for the greater good,” he said.

Caldwell adds that Oahu is not far away from getting to Tier 3 which would allow for gatherings of up to 10 people and more capacity for some businesses. The positivity rate is already there at 2.1%, but the 7-day daily average sits at 60 and needs to go down to 49.

“Yes we can shop, yes we can gather for subdued holiday celebrations. We still want to get together but we have to do it very carefully or we’re not gonna get to Tier 3, or we can even snap back to Tier 1,” said Caldwell.

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