An additional 22 inmates test positive at HCCC

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Cars are parked in front of the Hawaii Community Correctional Center in Hilo on Tuesday.

Another 22 inmates at the Hawaii Community Correctional Center have tested positive for COVID-19, the state Department of Public Safety said Thursday.

A total of 99 inmates and 13 staff members have now tested positive for the coronavirus since two positive cases were first reported at the Hilo jail on May 24.

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Thursday’s results came as part of a mass testing effort underway at the facility, DPS said.

The department continues to encourage all staff and inmates to voluntarily get tested and receive a COVID vaccination.

“Vaccinations are a critical part of the Department of Public Safety’s efforts to mitigate spread of the virus among employees as well as the inmate population,” said DPS Direct Max Otani said in a news release. “The constant intake and release of pre-trial detainees in the jails make it difficult for (DPS) to fully vaccinate this population, but facility health care staff and (state Department of Health) are working hard to educate inmates on the safety of the vaccine.”

Otani said department health care staff and DOH teams regularly share information with staff and inmates on vaccination opportunities and make themselves available in the facilities to answer questions.

Hawaii County also is working with the state to address the outbreak.

Cyrus Johnasen, a spokesman for Mayor Mitch Roth, said the county is convening meetings with the DOH and DPS to address both internal and external issues related to the spike in cases at HCCC.

“Most importantly, our role is about managing the possibility of community spread between the employees affected, their families and our community at large,” he said. “The public’s safety remains our number one priority,and we remain ready to kokua wherever needed.”

No other clusters have been under investigation on the Big Island in the last 14 days, according to the DOH’s weekly cluster report, which was issued Thursday.

The DOH on Thursday also unveiled a COVID-19 “vaccination progress map.”

Based on vaccination data collected to date, the DOH’s Disease Outbreak Control Division has developed a new set of heat maps that show vaccination rates by zip code for each island, the department said in a news release.

“The vaccine is our best tool to move forward together as a state. These maps will allow us to work with partners to strategically schedule new vaccination clinics around the state,” state Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Kemble said in the news release. “With this geographic information, we can deploy resources where they are needed most and bring the vaccine to where people live, work and play.”

According to the map, more than 70.1% of Hilo residents have received at least one vaccine dose.

In Honokaa, Hawi, Papaikou, Pepeekeo and Waikoloa, 60.1%-70% have started the vaccination process.

Meanwhile 45.1%-60% of residents in Keaau, Waimea, Hakalau, Honomu, Laupahoehoe, Ninole, Ookala, Papaaloa, Keauhou, Kailua-Kona, Holualoa, Kealakekua and Pahala have received at least one dose.

In Volcano, Kurtistown and Paauilo, 35.1%-45% have received one vaccine dose, while less than 35% of people in Captain Cook, Honaunau, Naalehu, Ocean View, Pahoa and Mountain View have started a vaccination series.

As of Thursday 52% of Hawaii’s total population has been fully vaccinated and 59% have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

On the Big Island, 56% of the total population have received at least one dose, while 44% have been fully vaccinated.

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The DOH on Thursday reported 45 new coronavirus cases of statewide, including two confirmed and one probable case on Hawaii Island.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.