Oahu inmate infections will be subtracted from seven-day average case counts beginning Thursday to avoid snapping back to the more-restrictive Tier 1 of the city’s economic re-opening plan, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced today.
Of 104 new cases of COVID-19 positive cases reported for Oahu today, 55 are inmates at Halawa Correctional Center, Caldwell said. The 49 remaining cases also includes eight staff members from the facility, the mayor said.
“That is a pretty good number if you’re just looking at Oahu minus the prison population,” Caldwell said. “It tells us that we are working hard.”
If the newly reported positive cases are worked into a seven-day average, Oahu will have seen 105 average daily cases during the past week, he said.
Under the tiered system that Caldwell administration set up for the City and County of Honolulu, if Oahu has more than 100 new daily cases on average for two consecutive weeks, the county will move to Tier 1 from the current Tier 2. The same happens if the positivity rate increases to at least 5.0%.
The 104 new infections reported on Oahu today computes to a seven-day average case count of 105 with a positivity rate of 3.6%.
Subtracting the inmate infections from the counts, Oahu would have reported 49 infections today, Caldwell said. Oahu’s seven-day average case count for Oahu would be 82.6 and the positivity rate would be 2.9% without the inmate infections, he said.
Caldwell petitioned Gov. David Ige about 10 days ago to allow him to remove inmate coronavirus counts from the island’s reopening metrics. Caldwell previously warned that Oahu could revert to Tier 1 if the trend of triple-digit new cases continues.
“We don’t want to punish you for your hard work or have negative impacts because of your hard work,” Caldwell said after discussing with Ige, whom he said has generally agreed with the decision. “I did tell the governor that we will not be counting our inmate population numbers for the purposes of snapping back to Tier 1.”
Oahu moved to the less-restrictive Tier 2 of Caldwell’s four-tier economic recovery plan on Oct. 22. The mayor’s office says that to gauge whether Honolulu will move to a different tier, the city takes a “weekly assessment” of two key COVID-19 numbers each Wednesday. To move to Tier 3 from Tier 2, the 7-day average of new cases must be below 50 on two consecutive Wednesdays. Also, the 7-day average positivity rate must be below 2.5% on those two Wednesdays.
Caldwell said he plans to continue reporting the seven-day average cases and positivity rate each day.
“We are going to go forward with this,” Caldwell said. “Of course, we will continue to monitor this and see the impact on our health care resources and if we see some dramatic impact — we will address the problem and deal with it at that time.”
Mayor-elect Rick Blangiardi, who takes over Jan. 2, has indicated he would like to change the tier plan to make it less restrictive.
But Blangiardi told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser this afternoon that “it’s too soon” to make a statement of his intentions. “We fully intend to work with the medical community,” he said. “We want the decisions on the tiered system to be evidence-based.”
Especially with the hopes being placed on the vaccines that are being distributed here and elsewhere, “I definitely want to get the best advice from the medical community to help make those decisions,” he said.
Watch the livestream video from Caldwell’s news conference above.
Editor’s Note: This developing story will be updated as soon as more information becomes available.