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1st Hawaii inmate at Saguaro Correctional Center in Arizona dies of COVID-19, state officials say

                                A Google map screenshot of the Saguaro Correctional Center in Arizona.
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A Google map screenshot of the Saguaro Correctional Center in Arizona.

The Hawaii Department of Public Safety today announced the first confirmed coronavirus-related death of a Hawaii inmate at the Saguaro Correctional Center in Arizona.

The man, who was in his 60s with underlying medical conditions, died Tuesday at an unidentified Arizona hospital. No additional information was released as officials cited the need to protect the individual’s medical privacy.

“We have been in contact with his family and let them know that our heartfelt condolences and thoughts are with them during this difficult time,” said Tommy Johnson, deputy director for Corrections, in a news release. “We will be bringing him home to Hawai‘i for his family.”

Officials said mass testing of Hawaii inmates at Saguaro was completed on Oct. 29, and that 662 with first-round negative test results are currently undergoing retesting as part of surge testing efforts.

Of the entire Hawaii inmate population there, test results showed that 138 (13%) are actively positive, 393 (36%) have recovered and 546 inmates (51%) have tested negative for COVID-19.

Officials said 131 out of the 138 active positive cases will reach their 14th day of medical isolation on Friday, and are expected to be cleared from quarantine.

That will leave three remaining inmates in medical isolation, while four are in the hospital.

“We take the health and safety of all those who are in our contracted prison, as well as those who live and work in our state facilities, very seriously,” said Fred Hyun, acting Public Safety Department director, in a news release. “That is why PSD is conducting surge testing at all facilities statewide and asked Saguaro to do the same.”

Saguaro staff has assured the department that in addition to monitoring and testing, it will continue to implement stringent sanitation and hygiene measures to mitigate the spread of coronavirus to inmates and staff.

An information hotline with recorded updates on the Saguaro testing is available at 587-1421.

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