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Green: Few at Hilo correctional facility grappling with outbreak had gotten vaccinated

Published: Jun. 2, 2021 at 1:50 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 2, 2021 at 6:04 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state Department of Public Safety released updated case counts of COVID-19 infections in state jails and prisons across the islands this week.

On Wednesday, DPS reported that the Hawaii Community Correctional Center added two new cases among staff members, bringing the total number of active employee cases to 11.

Meanwhile, there were 77 active cases in inmates.

HNN was outside HCCC on Tuesday as inmates got their noses swabbed for COVID-19. Some 340 people are incarcerated at the facility, which is far above capacity.

Crowded conditions are ideal for an outbreak.

And Lt. Gov. Josh Green says many inmates are refusing to get vaccinated because they don’t trust government and science.

“There it’s down to 25% (vaccinated). It’s like night and day and until prisoners get vaccinated, we will see outbreaks,” said Green.

“Those who have gotten into trouble are not necessarily rule followers,” he added.

The Public Safety department says 140 shots have been administered to HCCC inmates, but says it doesn’t have a calculated the percentage of vaccinated since the prison population fluctuates.

“Inmates come and go pretty quickly,” said former state prisons Director Ted Sakai, who’s now on the oversight commission.

He says controlling an outbreak is difficult.

“Many of them are mentally ill. Some of them are still loaded. So they quickly have to do health assessment, security assessments and tell them we are going to test you and do you want to get vaccinated. It’s really tough,” said Sakai.

Kat Brady, a prison reform advocate, says vaccinated prisoners should be given incentives like extra phone or recreation time.

“The pandemic has really revealed the underbelly of the pandemic where we decide who’s worthy and who’s not,” she said.

After an outbreak among corrections officer recruits, there’s also debate over a vaccine mandate.

“Public safety should be working with human resources that if you want this job, you have to be vaccinated,” said Sakai.

Green added: “It will create extra people to dig in. There will be lawsuits and I think there is a history of distrust.”

Below is the latest information of cases within the department statewide:

This chart provided by DPS shows the case counts at facilities statewide.
This chart provided by DPS shows the case counts at facilities statewide.(DPS)

DPS says COVID-19 testing is continuously being done at facilities across the islands. Majority of inmate results are coming back negative.

Click here for more information.

This chart provided by DPS shows the case counts at facilities statewide.
This chart provided by DPS shows the case counts at facilities statewide.(DPS)

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