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Youth Admitted to Juvenile Detention on O‘ahu Tests Positive for COVID-19

August 24, 2020, 9:04 AM HST
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An asymptomatic juvenile recently admitted to the Hale Ho‘omalu Juvenile Detention Facility has tested positive for COVID-19, the Hawai‘i State Judiciary confirmed Sunday.

This is the first confirmed case of a juvenile testing positive at this facility, which is located next to the Kapolei Judiciary Complex.

Prior to this, four Judiciary employees, three on O‘ahu and one on Hawai‘i island, had tested positive.

The juvenile was admitted to Hale Ho‘omalu on Aug. 16 and immediately placed in 14-day quarantine, which is standard procedure at the facility. The youth was moved to the medical isolation unit and tested on Aug. 19 after learning that a household member had tested positive. A positive test result for the youth was confirmed on Saturday.

“Our staff executed the protocol as planned and I commend them for their professionalism. I greatly appreciate all they are doing to keep our youth safe and providing the appropriate guidance to address their situations in a positive manner,” said First Circuit Chief Judge R. Mark Browning.

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The youth has been in quarantine since arrival and has had no contact with other juvenile residents and no close prolonged contact with non-medical staff. Therefore, the Department of Health has advised the Judiciary that no additional testing is recommended at this time. Nevertheless, staff who may have had brief or socially distant contact with the youth are being notified and advised to contact their health providers if they have concerns. A public defender who was present with the youth at a court hearing has also been contacted. The hearing was held remotely with court staff in another location.

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The medical staff members who have interacted closely with the youth always wore masks, eye-protective glasses, gowns, and gloves, and as a result, the DOH has advised that the risk of contraction is quite low.

The areas the youth passed through while being admitted are routinely cleaned twice a day, and in an abundance of caution, they have been disinfected again. Since the pandemic began, all staff have also been pitching in to wipe down high traffic areas throughout the day.

Hale Ho‘omalu has an emergency operations plan and followed its protocols in response to this situation. The medical and administrative staff will continue to confer with the Department of Health regarding any additional actions needed.

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Hale Ho‘omalu currently houses 13 other youths, male and female. They are housed in individual cells. Their normal activities such as school work, religious services, and television viewing are still available, but they cannot have close prolonged contact with one another or the staff. The youths have been wearing face masks.

Design capacity for the facility is 66.

All visitations have been done by phone or videoconferencing during the pandemic. The only in-person visits are for legal consultations. Attorneys undergo temperature and health screening prior to entering the facility, must wear masks, and can meet only in designated areas.

Hale Ho‘omalu houses youth needing temporary care and protection while going through the criminal justice process.

“Hale Ho‘omalu means ‘the house for care, protection, and restitution,’” Browning said. “We take that meaning to heart, even more so during these unprecedented times.

The staff was able to speak with most of the parents and legal guardians of the residents in the facility to advise them of the situation and assure them that their children are safe and being well cared for. Messages to call Hale Ho‘omalu were left for those they were unable to reach. The youths have also been apprised of the situation.

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