State briefs for December 13

Virus outbreak at prison infects 89 inmates, staff

HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii prison officials said an additional 63 inmates and six staff members have tested positive for the coronavirus at a state prison.

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The outbreak has left 68 inmates and 21 staff members infected with the virus at the Halawa Correctional Facility in Oahu. There are 936 inmates at the facility, all of whom are now being tested.

A lockdown has been instituted in the facility that suspended all inmate movement and blocked transfers to and from the prison. The quarantine will last for at least two weeks.

“HCF immediately enacted its pandemic protocol to isolate these inmates and begin mitigation efforts,” said Max Otani, the state Department of Public Safety’s director. “Our security and medical staff are working around the clock to safeguard staff and inmates and keep the virus from spreading. I am so proud of everyone at the facility for their dedication to pulling through this situation as a team.”

This is the third major outbreak at a Hawaii prison since the pandemic began.

The Oahu Community Correctional Center has had 449 inmates test positive for the virus while the number of inmates infected with the coronavirus at the Waiawa Community Correctional Center in Waipahu is over 200.

More than 600 Hawaii inmates have also tested positive for the virus at a privately owned prison in Arizona.

Caldwell delays plastic utensil ban by 90 days

HONOLULU (AP) — Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell agreed to delay the enforcement of a plastic utensils ban on businesses in the Hawaii island of Oahu by 90 days.

Businesses on Oahu that serve prepared food will now have until March 31 to use up their existing stock of plastic utensils under the mayor’s extension announced Thursday.

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The Hawaii Restaurant Association and Hawaii Food Industry Association had been asking Caldwell to delay enforcement of the ordinance that was scheduled to begin Jan. 1 because of economic issues throughout the industry caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“The restaurant industry is one of our largest industries here in urban Honolulu,” Caldwell said. “It employed, prior to the pandemic, 55,000 people, generating billions of dollars in revenue. And they’re really hurting. Many of them hang on by their fingernails hoping for that brighter summer that is coming, but they need to get to that summer.”

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