HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Responding to critics who say outbreaks at Oahu prisons are raising the city’s coronavirus case averages, Mayor Kirk Caldwell said Monday that those cases needed to continue to be included in local case counts to keep track of available healthcare resources and hospital space.
Outbreaks like the one currently happening at Waiawa Correctional Facility, where at least 95 inmates have tested positive in recent days, have added dozens of cases to 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 reported on Oahu needs to be between 20 and 49 in order to move from Tier 2 into Tier 3. The positivity rate also needs to be between 1% and 2.49%
Mayor Caldwell says the additional cases brought on by isolated outbreaks are an element of the recovery framework that the city is going to have to weather for help and safety reasons.
“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,” said Mayor Caldwell. “After the last shutdown, which was driven in part by the fact that we were seeing our ICUs fill up, and staffing in those ICUs being stretched, we thought we had to to leave it in.
“Whether you’re in prison or not, we have to protect all lives,” the mayor added. “That’s what were doing.”
Aware of how badly Oahu residents want to move forward in the county’s coronavirus recovery plan ― especially as we near the Thanksgiving holiday ― Caldwell says the outbreaks are ‘disturbing and upsetting’ for him.
But the tiered approach needs to be followed, he says, regardless of how demoralizing the outbreaks in places like prisons can be.
“Right now, our framework is automatic. You snap back after a week over 100 (average new cases per day),” said Caldwell. “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.”
Caldwell was scheduled to host a press conference Monday afternoon to further discuss Oahu’s recovery efforts.