Hawaii correctional facility inmate tests positive for virus

HONOLULU — The Hawaii Department of Public Safety announced Friday that a new inmate at the Oahu Community Correction Center tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week, raising concerns about the safety of others crowded in jails and prisons statewide.

The inmate, who remained unidentified, was brought to the facility Monday and was tested Tuesday after officials learned of a possible exposure prior to entering the facility, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

The inmate is believed to be the first inmate at a Hawaii jail or prison to have tested positive.

“The facility acted quickly to implement the department’s COVID-19 pandemic protocol for correctional facilities, in an effort to mitigate any potential spread of the virus,” Department Director Nolan Espinda said.

The Oahu Community Correction Center is currently housing 938 inmates. The facility’s design capacity is 628, and its operational capacity is 954.

Department officials also reported Friday that four correctional officers tested positive, including one from Oahu Community Correction Center, one from Halawa Correctional Facility and two from Waiawa Correctional Facility.

The state public defender’s office for months was fighting for early releases of inmates on probation with jail time and pretrial inmates and some felons nearing the end of their sentences and were susceptible to the coronavirus.

The office petitioned to the Hawaii Supreme Court for the early releases, which led to more than 1,000 motions through expedited court review. The public defender’s office was unavailable for comment.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

In other coronavirus-related developments:

— The city of Honolulu said Friday that 10 employees inside Honolulu Hale and its annex have tested positive for COVID-19 and are in isolation.

Eight of the 10 employees are with the Department of Budget and Fiscal Services, one is from the Department of Facility Maintenance and one is a city clerk, city spokesman Alexander Zannes said.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell, Council Chairman Ikaika Anderson and other city officials are expected to meet Monday to determine if the building should be open to the public, Zannes said.

City employees were advised to monitor symptoms and stay home if they are feeling sick.


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