With Oahu’s rising coronavirus cases headed in the direction of another shutdown, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell is urgently petitioning the state Department of Health and Gov. David Ige to consider allowing him to remove inmate coronavirus counts from the island’s reopening metrics.
Caldwell’s remarks made during a media briefing today to discuss the city’s status in relation to Honolulu’s COVID-19 Recovery Framework came as Oahu realized its fourth straight day of new triple-digit coronavirus cases. Caldwell said he doesn’t have an answer yet, but state officials have pledged to discuss the issue later today.
Hawaii health officials today reported one new coronavirus-related death and 204 new infections statewide, bringing the totals since the start of the pandemic to 282 deaths and 20,217 cases.
“The number of cases on Oahu alone was 180,” Caldwell said. “We haven’t seen this number of cases since Sept. 5 — that was the last time we saw a spike and we had to shut down Oahu. We’re seeing a similar pattern.”
Today’s new statewide infection cases reported by the Health Department also included 13 cases on the Big Island, and 11 on Maui. There were no further details on today’s death.
Caldwell said he’s been told unofficially by the state DOH that as many as 93 of the Oahu cases reported on Sunday may have come from Halawa Correctional Facility. With those cases, Caldwell said Oahu’s average COVID-19 cases have risen to 113 and its positivity rate to 3.8%.
“We keep this number over the next two weeks, we’ll be snapping back to Tier 1 in the beginning of the new year. Meaning gyms are shut down restaurant go to just five family members or those in the same household unit,” he said.
Caldwell also made a plea to Oahu residents to stay vigilant about mask wearing, hand washing and social distancing because “the virus travels quickly if we let our guard down. “
“The opening and shutting of our island is hugely damaging. It does bring down the cases. it worked twice and brought down the cases dramatically,” he said. “But there’s a lot of bloodletting with businesses. And every time you do it — this is the second time, I don’t want to do it a third time — the blood drains even quickly and it’s harder for them to recover.”
Caldwell said he first asked Ige to remove the inmate coronavirus count from Oahu’s reopening metrics a week and a half ago.
“I’ve been reassured that they will be talking about it this afternoon,” he said.
Caldwell said his request would only apply to inmates and not workers at the correctional facilities, who spend time in the community.
So far Caldwell said the rise in inmate cases has not strained Oahu’s healthcare capacity. If healthcare strain occurred, Caldwell said he expects the county could quickly adjust its reopening metrics.
In other business, Amy Asselbaye, director of Honolulu County Office of Economic Revitalization, said about 4,000 individuals and households who were negatively impacted by the pandemic have qualified for $500 gift cards from the city.
She said two issues have caused a delay in the receipt of the cards — bad weather on the East Coast and high-volume delays from the U.S. Postal Service.
Asselbaye said the first batch of cards was mailed on Dec. 9 and a second group of cards was mailed last week.
“We are confident that they will eventually reach our residents,” she said.
Currently, recipients only have until Dec. 27 to use the card or the money reverts back to the city, which would apply it to other CARES expenditures. However, Asselbaye said the city is closely watching Congress to see if lawmakers pass another stimulus bill, a move which could give recipients longer than Dec. 27 to use their cards.
Watch the briefing via the video above or go to the mayor’s Facebook page.