Three additional prison inmates and 10 staff members at Halawa Correctional Facility have tested positive for COVID-19 in what could be an early indication of another large infection cluster within the state correctional system. Halawa is the state’s largest prison, with 936 inmates.

The new test results bring the total known active COVID-19 cases at Halawa to 15 staff and five inmates, and the virus has spread very rapidly once it has gotten a foothold in correctional facilities. There have been 20 staff and 10 inmates at Halawa who have been infected since the start of the pandemic.

Halawa Correctional Facility tour 2019.
Halawa Correctional Facility reported three more inmates and 10 staff have tested positive for COVID-19. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2019

The Oahu Community Correctional Center has reported 449 inmate cases and 96 employee infections so far –making it the largest Hawaii cluster of the pandemic — while Waiawa Correctional Facility has had 212 inmate cases and 14 employees who were infected with the virus.

Saguaro Correctional Center, a privately run prison in Arizona where 1,079 Hawaii inmates are housed, has reported 672 inmate cases so far. Three Hawaii inmates at Saguaro and one Saguaro prisoner from Idaho who tested positive for COVID-19 have died.

Halawa Warden Scott Harrington implemented facility-wide isolation and quarantine protocols, which include suspending all inmate movement within the facility and transfers to and from the facility for at least 14 days, according to the state Department of Public Safety.

“Out of an abundance of caution, the warden made the call to immediately implement isolation and quarantine procedures to mitigate spread across the facility, to other facilities and the community. I support his proactive decision,” said Tommy Johnson, Department of Public Safety’s deputy director for corrections. “The warden and his staff are working very hard to safeguard everyone and prevent the virus from spreading into a full-blown outbreak.”

The state Department of Health is conducting contact tracing, and staff at the prison is in full personal protective equipment, according to a written statement by Public Safety officials.

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