The Latest: 190 New Cases; Hālawa Prison Infections Rise; Hospitals Prepare For COVID Vaccine

Dec 14, 2020

Updatd 12/14/20, 12:10 p.m.

A COVID-19 outbreak at the Hālawa Correctional Facility has grown to infect more than 160 inmates and nearly 30 staff. The prison is currently in lockdown with all inmate movement including transfer to and from the facility have been suspended forthe next two weeks.

According to the state Department of Public Safety, 167 inmates at the Hālawa Correctional Facility are currently in medical isolation after testing positive for the coronavirus. Another 28 staff at the prison were also infected.

Hawaiʻi health officials are currently conducting contact tracing. State public safety director Max Otani says security and medical staff at Hālawa are working around the clock to keep the virus from spreading.

Coronavirus testing continues for the more than 900 inmates at the facility.

So far this year, more than 1,400 Hawaiʻi inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 while incarcerated. One Hawaiʻi inmate died of the coronavirus during an outbreak at the Saguaro Correctional Facility in Eloy, Arizona. More than 150 staff have also tested positive for the virus.

The state Department of Public Safety is currently monitoring more than 170 active cases of COVID-19 at four of its facilities. This includes Hālawa, Saguaro, Waiʻawa Correction Facility, and the Oʻahu Community Correctional Center.

-- HPR's Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi

Where we stand

The state Department of Health reported 190 new cases and no fatalities today.

According to the state's numbers, Oʻahu had 157 new cases, Maui 15, Hawaiʻi County 15, Kauaʻi, Lanai and Molokaʻi had none. 

The latest state counts bring the Oʻahu total to 16,423, Hawaiʻi County 1,733, Maui 707, Kauaʻi 134, Lanai 106 and Molokaʻi 22. The number of out-of-state cases totals 299.

Since the pandemic began, the state has tallied 19,424 cases. The death toll stands at 274.

Kaiser Hospital prepared for COVID vaccine shipment

Kaiser Permanente announced last week it has installed its ultra-cold freezer unit to hold an allotment of Pfizer's COVID vaccine.

According to the hospital, the freezer can hold up to 200,000 doses, at a temperature of -80℉. The freezer will be available to help other healthcare organizations that need access to an ultra-cold freezer.

Governor David Ige last week announced the state will receive approximately 81,000 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, which is expected to be delivered to local hospitals as soon as today.

On Friday, the Food and Drug Administration approved giving the Pfizer vaccine emergency use authorization after a panel earlier in the week discussed the pharmaceutical company's trial data.

Queens Medical Center Prepares to Receive COVID-19 Vaccine

Queens Medical Center will receive the first shipment of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine as early as Monday.
Its employees could start to get injections within the next couple of days.

The shipment from Pfizer will have at least 975 doses. However, Dr. Jason Chang, President of Queens Medical Center says he hoped that the number would be closer to 5,000.

“There is a website called the VA CMS website. So anybody that's going to get their vaccination will log into it. And it's actually a registration system,” he said.

“So they will put their name and all the information that the government needs to collect.They'll schedule their time and the location that they'd like to get their vaccine. We have one location here at Punchbowl now and then we will be registering the location at West Oahu, our hospital there shortly after, and then Molokai and North Hawaii will also be vaccination locations.”

Queen's has about six thousand four hundred employees. Chang expected it will take about two months to vaccinate all workers who want it.

According to an internal poll done by the hospital, about 70% of Queen's employees were willing to take the vaccine immediately.

"But as we've done internal polls, it sounds like many people want to get the vaccination, but they don't want to get it on the first day," Chang said.

"They want to see how things go for a month, and then, you know, are willing to get the vaccine, we do believe that most of our employees will get the vaccine over the course of the first few months."

The medical center has two high capacity freezers that can store as many as 15-thousand doses of the vaccines at 94 degrees below zero Fahrenheit--and plans to secure two more freezers, one on Hawaii Island and another on West Oahu.

-- HPR's Ashley Mizuo