UPDATE: First COVID-19 Positive Inmate in Hawai‘i, Four Staff at Other Facilities Test Positive
A new inmate housed at the Oʻahu Community Correctional Center tested positive for COVID-19, becoming the first confirmed inmate case within the Hawaiʻi Department of Public Safety.
The inmate was brought to OCCC on Monday and placed in a mandatory 14-day intake quarantine, as is procedure for all new inmates. The individual was tested on Tuesday, after the department learned of possible exposure to COVID-19 prior to entry.
“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,” said Nolan Espinda, Public Safety Director. “Since the beginning of this pandemic, we have been working closely with the Department of Health to ensure all DOH and CDC guidelines are followed in our facilities, so we can maintain the health and welfare of our staff and the incarcerated population.”
In unrelated cases, one adult correctional officer at the Hālawa Correctional Facility and two ACOs at the Waiawa Correctional Facility have tested positive for COVID-19. The Hālawa ACO received positive test results on Thursday, Aug. 6. The two Waiawa ACOs tested positive August 4 and August 6.
“DOH is conducting contact tracing and we will follow through with implementing their guidance and directives. Thankfully, the risk to other employees and inmates is believed to be minimal because all staff regularly practice the necessary safety and sanitation precautions called for in their facilities Pandemic Control Plan, all of which have been ingrained in everyone over the past few months,” said Director Espinda.
Department officials say all facilities follow the PSD Pandemic Response Plan which was developed in line with CDC and DOH guidelines for identifying and isolating inmates who fit the CDC and DOH criteria for testing.
If an inmate presents with symptoms of a respiratory illness or has had possible contact with a known COVID-19 positive individual, PSD Health Care Division’s staff will perform a full evaluation, including testing for COVID-19 and common infectious respiratory illnesses such as influenza.
Health care staff conduct onsite specimen collection using the nasopharyngeal swab and submit the specimen for testing.
Inmates pending testing are immediately placed in medical isolation.
The facilities have longstanding outbreak management plans in place to quickly identify, isolate and treat communicable diseases. The staff remain vigilant in their efforts to prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19.
Staff have reminded the inmates of proactive ways they can help prevent the spread of germs, including covering their coughs and sneezes, frequent handwashing, sanitizing their common living areas, refraining from sharing cups and utensils with others, and limiting close contact. They have also been reminded, if they aren’t feeling well, to report it immediately.