A 53-year-old inmate died early Sunday at Halawa Correctional Facility as the COVID-19 cluster continued to expand there, but the state Department of Public Safety declined to say if the prisoner who died had tested positive for the coronavirus.

Toni Schwartz, spokeswoman for the department, said inmate Kevin Uyeda was found unresponsive in his cell at the Halawa Correctional Facility at about 4:16 a.m., and staff began administering lifesaving measures. Paramedics continued CPR while taking Uyeda to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 5:41 a.m.

Halawa Correctional Facility inmates in module during tour 2019.
Halawa Correctional Facility now has 169 known, active cases of COVID-19. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2019

Mass testing has been underway at Halawa since at least the middle of last week, but the department would not say if Uyeda had been among those who were tested.

Schwartz said in a written statement Monday that the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act prohibits prison officials from releasing any “medical information specific to any individual in our custody and care.” That includes inmates who have died.

Uyeda was serving a sentence for promoting a dangerous drug in the third degree, habitual operation of a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant, and driving with a suspended license.

The Department of Public Safety reported Monday that there are now 169 known, active cases of COVID-19 among the inmates at Halawa, and 28 active cases among the staff. At least five other inmates and five other staff members have recovered from the virus.

At Waiawa Correctional Facility, 213 inmates have tested positive, and 36 cases are active, according to the department. At the Oahu Community Correctional Center, 441 inmates have tested positive, but just three cases are still active, according to the department.

Three Hawaii prisoners who were being housed at Saguaro Correctional Center in Arizona died this fall after being infected with COVID-19, but the Pinal County Medical Examiner opined that COVID-19 was probably not a factor in two of those deaths because the inmates had pre-existing medical conditions such as hypertension and diabetes.

Hawaii holds nearly 1,000 prisoners at the Saguaro facility because there is no room for them in Hawaii prisons. So far, 672 inmates have tested positive for the virus, but only 27 of those cases are still active, according to the department.

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