Oahu inmates released by court ruling quarantined at hotels

HONOLULU — Some inmates released from the Oahu Community Correctional Center by a state Supreme Court order have been isolated or quarantined at Honolulu hotels, officials said.

The state Department of Health said the inmates include those who have tested positive for COVID-19, are awaiting test results or have been in contact with someone who tested positive, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Tuesday.

A COVID-19 outbreak infected more than 200 people at the jail and the high court ordered the release of nonviolent inmates Aug. 16 over concerns there was not enough room to properly socially distance and stop the virus from spreading.

As of Saturday, 95 inmates had been released in compliance with the order.

Health department officials would not say how many former inmates are quarantined at the hotels, which were not identified.

Those housed in the hotels must show they cannot quarantine or isolate in residences on their own, department spokeswoman Janice Okubo said.

“Inmates who have been released are treated the same as people in the community who need support for isolation and quarantine to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Okubo said.

Hotel rooms and services are provided to the homeless, former inmates and others who cannot isolate without assistance, said Deputy Health Director Edward Mersereau, who heads the department’s Behavioral Health Services Division that oversees coronavirus testing at Oahu correctional facilities.

“We’re really working with (the Department of) Public Safety to identify who is coming out and whether or not they can safely isolate or quarantine in their own homes or some other situation,” Mersereau said.

For most people, the 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.

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.

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