Jail outbreak worsens: 61 more HCCC inmates test positive for COVID-19

More than five dozen Hawaii Community Correctional Center inmates received positive COVID-19 test results Saturday, bringing the total number of cases associated with the Hilo jail to 72.

Hawaii Community Correctional Center said it received 119 inmate test results Saturday as part of mass testing at the facility. More than half — 61 — were positive, bringing the total number of COVID-19 cases associated with the current outbreak to 72. The department said Wednesday that one of the inmates who had tested positive was released after serving their full sentence leaving the cluster still housed at the facility at 71 as of Saturday.


Of the 49 staff tested, one result came back positive and 48 were negative, the department announced Saturday.

The jail remains on pandemic protocol status, which includes implementing a facility-wide quarantine of all inmate housing and suspending inmate movement going out of the facility. The department stated the facility is in constant contact with the courts to notify them of the status.

“The warden and his staff are working very hard to safeguard everyone and mitigate further spread of the virus,” said Tommy Johnson, PSD deputy director for corrections. “We appreciate the immediate assistance from the Department of Health team assigned to PSD, and I also want to commend the facility health care and security staff who quickly enacted their pandemic plan to isolate, quarantine, and cohort inmates to the best of their ability.”

Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth in a press release Saturday said the county was aware of the “reported spike in positive COVID-19 cases at HCCC.” The county is working with the Department of Public Safety and state Department of Health to “safely address the issue and contain the spread.”

“We applaud the quick response on behalf of the PSD and thank them for their excellent communication and swift action to address the issue. At this time, we would like to remind residents that the virus is still very much a threat and would like to encourage those in our community to get vaccinated to help keep each other safe. Together we can and will beat this virus and return to normalcy, but it will take all of us. Stay safe, remain cautious, and have a safe and responsible Memorial Day weekend,” Roth said.

The enactment of the facility’s pandemic protocol on May 24, which also suspends all inmate movement from the facility, came less than a month after the facility emerged April 26 from quarantine prompted by two positive tests among staff.

As of the most recent bi-monthly population report issued Wednesday with data as recent as May 17, Hawaii Community Correctional Center reported housing 338 inmates, which exceeds operational capacity by 112 persons. As of the last report issued April 5, the jail reported housing 298 inmates, which exceeded operational capacity by 72 persons.

Meanwhile Saturday, the Big Island reported 11 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total case count to 2,886.

Statewide, 48 new cases were reported by the Department of Health with 28 of those cases on Oahu, six in Maui County and none on Kauai. Three cases were residents diagnosed out of state. Since the end of last February, 36,124 people have tested positive for COVID-19 across Hawaii.


Over the past two weeks, the Big Island has reported 70 cases, or an average of 6.4 cases per day.

One new coronavirus-related death was reported on Saturday on Oahu. Of the 499 coronavirus-related deaths confirmed and reported by the state to date, 387 were on Oahu, 54 were on Maui, 53 were on the Big Island and two on Kauai. Three deaths were among residents outside the state.

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