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HCCC remains in quarantine; inmate test results pending

  • The Hawaii Community Correctional Center is seen in 2020. KELSEY WALLING/Tribune-Herald

No new positive COVID-19 tests were reported Tuesday among inmates or staff at Hawaii Community Correctional Center, which remains in quarantine after an employee recently tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the state Department of Public Safety.

The department announced Monday that the Hilo jail was placed in quarantine, per its pandemic protocol, after the employee who last worked at the facility April 7 tested positive. Two additional staff members have been told to self-quarantine until cleared by the state Department of Health, said DPS spokesperson Toni Schwartz on Tuesday.

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No inmates have reported symptoms. As of the most recent population report April 5, HCCC was housing 298 inmates, which exceeds operational capacity by 72.

“Facility health care staff and the Department of Health have initiated contact tracing and testing with the assistance of Premier Medical Group,” Schwartz said. “All Hawaii Community Correctional Center staff and inmates were offered the test. Results are pending.”

Schwartz said the preliminary cause of the positive staff case appears to be from the community. Staff and inmates are tested regularly for the virus.

All front-line staff were offered the vaccine through community distribution clinics and mobile points of dispensing. Schwartz didn’t have a figure on how many or what percentage of HCCC staff have been vaccinated.

She said DPS is working closely with DOH and the district health offices on each island to coordinate and provide opportunities for inmates to receive the vaccine on a voluntary basis.

To date, 31% of HCCC inmates who qualify have opted to receive the vaccine, she said. At Kulani Correctional Facility, the state prison located southeast of Hilo, 86% of inmates have gotten the shot.

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The precautionary move to put HCCC in quarantine, suspending the movement of inmates within and outside the facility, lasts 10 days per guidelines provided by the DOH and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to Schwartz. Inmates remain in their housing units until cleared by health care staff.

“All inmate movement is suspended in order to prevent possible spread of the virus,” she said, adding that pandemic protocol includes staying in constant contact with the courts to notify them of an inmate’s status and pending testing.

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