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Mayor Caldwell worries jump in cases will force city back to tier 1 by year’s end

Updated: Dec. 21, 2020 at 7:17 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - In a news conference Sunday afternoon, Mayor Caldwell expressed his worries that Honolulu, on its current case track, is at risk of reverting to tier one of the reopening plan.

Sunday, 204 new cases were reported statewide with 180 of them on Oahu alone. That’s the largest single-day jump in cases since Sept. 5.

“This virus travels quickly if we let our guard down,” Caldwell said as he urged residents to “hunker down” for the holidays, and only spend time with immediate household members or close bubble contacts. It’s the same message Caldwell and other community leaders have been preaching for months now, but it comes with new urgency as pandemic fatigue sets in alongside a sense of relief now that a vaccine has been approved.

But widespread vaccination is still a long ways away, and leaders say vigilance must remain.

If Oahu continues to see triple digit gains, the mayor says a third shutdown might be needed, though it is the last thing he wants to do.

He acknowledged the economic backlash that comes with the threat of shutting down again.

“Opening and shutting of our island is hugely damaging. It does bring down the cases — we’ve done it twice and it brought down the cases dramatically — but there’s a lot of blood letting with businesses. And every time you do it ... the blood drains even quicker out of business, and is harder for them to recover,” he said.

One of the issues challenging the city’s forward progression is the fact that cases within prisons like Halawa and OCCC are still factored into the city’s count.

On Saturday, DPS reported 55 new cases among Halawa inmates with eight more cases being staff members.

The mayor asked the governor to exclude those numbers from the city’s count in an effort to help reopen businesses, but Ige hasn’t yet signed off on the request.

“It’s a little bit complicated to figure out the number of test given to prisoners for the positivity rate and Department of Health is over burdened with so many other things,” Caldwell said.

Caldwell also said there is no current strain on Oahu’s medical system, and thinks separating the cases is now crucial to save businesses.

[Read more: Caldwell asks Gov. Ige to keep COVID-infected inmates out of Oahu case count]

“I think it’s really important that we, all of us, do our part. It really is dependent on us, what occurs next. How do we end this year, this very lousy 2020, for a much sunnier and brighter 2021. And that depends on the actions we take today. Every day marching forward. I’m trying to avoid having that happen,” Caldwell said.

Caldwell News Conference

#LIVE: Mayor Caldwell is discussing Oahu's latest case counts and recovery efforts. #HINews #HNN

Posted by Hawaii News Now on Sunday, December 20, 2020

This story will be updated.

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