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Cluster breaks out at jail with 29 new inmate cases reported

MCCC currently has 30 active inmate cases and 7 active staff cases

The state Department of Public Safety confirmed a COVID-19 cluster at the Maui Community Correctional Center, reporting 29 new cases among inmates on Friday. There are now 37 active cases at the jail, including 30 inmates and seven staff. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

The state confirmed a COVID-19 cluster at the Maui Community Correctional Center, where 30 inmates and seven staff were reported to have active cases of the virus Friday.

The Department of Public Safety reported 29 new positive COVID tests and 105 negative tests among inmates Friday at the Wailuku jail.

The department cited the transient nature of jail populations as a factor in the spread of the virus, with “pretrial detainees being ordered into custody or released each day.”

The state Department of Health is conducting contact tracing and investigation, “but it is safe to say that the positive cases that the facilities are experiencing are due to increased community spread of a highly transmissible virus,” according to the Department of Public Safety.

The department said it “is doing everything in its power to mitigate community spread of COVID-19 into the facilities and will continue to follow the pandemic plan,” which is based on Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for correctional facilities.

“This highly transmissible COVID-19 variant makes it challenging, but each facility has adapted the plan to meet their individual facility needs and are executing their plans, to the best of their ability, to medically isolate, quarantine and cohort inmates,” the department said.

The 30 inmates with active COVID cases at MCCC were in medical isolation, according to the department.

It said inmates are encouraged to be vaccinated and, when eligible, receive a booster shot.

Facilities can suspend transporting inmates to court and have them instead appear by videoconference for court hearings, according to the department.

“The courts decide who is transported and who appears by video,” the department said. “They have been very understanding of the situation in the facilities and have kept constant communication open behind the scenes with the jails and prisons. Together, they have worked hard to find alternative solutions that keep the inmates, staff and the public safe.”

The first inmate case associated with the MCCC cluster was reported Jan. 3.

The cluster is the third to develop at the Wailuku jail, where two COVID clusters were reported last year.

From February to mid-April, about 100 people at the jail — mostly inmates and a handful of staff — contracted the virus. All of the cases were of the B.1.429 variant that was widespread in California at the time and considered more contagious than the original COVID strain.

Another outbreak of cases at the jail that began around early August during the rise of the delta variant reached 122 cases by early September.

Since the start of the pandemic, 234 total inmates have tested positive at MCCC, according to Department of Public Safety data as of Friday.

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at lfujimoto@mauinews.com.

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