HCCC inmate virus cases now at 136

  • IGE

More than 100 cases of COVID-19 have now been reported at Hawaii Community Correctional Center.

The state Department of Public Safety on Saturday reported 37 new cases in the jail after more mass test results were returned, bringing the number of active inmate cases to 136.

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As of Saturday, active staff cases totaled 11.

DPS spokeswoman Toni Schwartz said Monday that no new test results had been received and the total positive cases remained unchanged.

When asked during a livestream Monday about what can be done to prevent outbreaks like the one at HCCC, Gov. David Ige said it has been challenging because the state is not mandating vaccinations for inmates or employees — although the option has been offered on numerous occasions.

“In fact, on Hawaii Island … where the outbreak occurred, many of those incarcerated refuse to get vaccinated and that has really has created that situation there, where we have so many,” he said. “As you know, the jail is just so overcrowded. There’s no way to isolate those who are infected from those who are not.”

Ige said the state is trying to reduce the population within the Hilo jail and move inmates who are COVID-free to other facilities if there’s space, “but it’s just hard because the numbers are just too high for that facility to really keep them separated.”

According to Schwartz, DPS is looking into the option of temporarily transferring some HCCC inmates to another facility that has adequate space to accommodate them.

“This action would help alleviate some of the strain overcrowding has placed on HCCC and give them a little more room to medically isolate, quarantine and cohort inmates,” she said. “Only inmates who have been vaccinated and/or tested negative prior to transfer, and deemed medically cleared to travel, would be considered.”

All correctional facilities place new inmates in an intake quarantine, said Schwartz, who added that the department does not publicly disclose transport schedules or other inmate transport information.

Earlier in the livestream, Ige said he doesn’t anticipate a vaccine mandate for all state employees, but is instead looking at “specific job sets that it might make sense to require the vaccination.”

All decisions, however, would have to be negotiated with the unions, and nothing would be mandated until the vaccine gets full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, he said.

“At this point in time, we’re not looking at mandating that, but we always have the public health and safety of our community in mind,” the governor said. “So, if it’s appropriate, we would look at doing that.”

State leaders announced Friday that travel restrictions in Hawaii will end when full vaccination rates meet certain thresholds, and launched an incentive program offering prizes and discounts to encourage more people to receive an inoculation.

Ige said Monday that the state has seen a significant decline in the number of vaccinations administered over the last two weeks, but the incentive program was targeted for June and “we’re hoping to see an increase.”

Ige said more businesses are volunteering prizes that those who are vaccinated can enter to win.

As of 4:30 p.m. Monday, 98,817 have so far signed up on the site, according to a DOH spokesman.

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For more information, visit higotvaccinated.com.

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

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