By NANCY WEST, InDepthNH.org
MANCHESTER – One of the residents of the federal halfway house in Manchester who was suddenly sent home Sunday night during a COVID-19 outbreak says he worries he has unknowingly infected as many as eight family members and their contacts.
Dannis Hackney, 37, said he was told to get a ride Sunday night from Community Resources for Justice Transitional Housing to his sister’s home in Milton, Vt., unaware that the COVID-19 test he took a few days before was positive.
Between Sunday night and Wednesday when health officials called him to say his test was positive, he assumed he was negative or wouldn’t have been allowed to go home to Vermont.
Some of the other halfway house residents were moved to the Coolidge House in Boston Sunday night, also not knowing if their tests were positive or negative. Several of those residents said the outbreak could have been avoided.
“What they did was very irresponsible and highly illegal,” Hackney said Friday, concerned he is causing family, people he knows and their family and co-workers to be at risk of contracting the virus.
Hackney said he is now quarantined from family members at his sister’s home and they are under quarantine to stay home as well.
“I definitely exposed all my family in two full days,” he said.
On Thursday the state reported that 16 residents and four staffers at Community Resources for Justice in Manchester were positive.
The state didn’t respond to questions from InDepthNH.org about the outbreak on Thursday or Friday.
But during Gov. Chris Sununu’s news conference on Friday, Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette said she removed Community Resources for Justice from the list of active outbreaks.
“That program has closed,” Shibinette said without providing any further detail.
Hackney said he was told he had to return to the Manchester house in 10 days, but hadn’t heard from officials since he was told to leave Sunday. He was sent home wearing an ankle monitoring bracelet.
Hackney said he served 84 months in federal prison for dealing prescription drugs and was supposed to stay at the halfway house for almost six months and is due to be released on May 27.
The New Hampshire Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is looking into the complaints. Manchester Attorney Jaye Rancourt said people with concerns can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Hackney said he was very ill for two days recently but thought it was because he is Muslim and was fasting for Ramadan.
That passed, but he still has a persistent cough, Hackney said.
The health department in New Hampshire called to tell him his case would be transferred to Vermont.
“I didn’t have a choice,” Hackney said. They came to my door at 5:45 p.m. (Sunday) and said I needed to find a ride. I need to leave the halfway house today,” Hackney said.
Before learning he is positive for COVID-19, he said he’s had contact with his 5-year-old daughter, his mother who is 57 and has health problems, his sister, 38, a 6-year-old niece, his cousin who drove him to Vermont, and others.
Hackney said his family was told they can’t get tested without symptoms. For now, he said he is wearing disposable face masks, using Clorox wipes and hand sanitizers and doing the best he can.
CRJ president and CEO John Larivee sent an emailed response, but didn’t directly address the residents’ concerns.
Larivee said they did the best they could to protect residents and followed CDC guidelines.
“We’ve pursued testing in programs where residents or staff have symptoms or have been exposed and there’s been likely exposure to others. Availability of testing varies in the different locations where we operate reentry programs, which has sometimes caused delays of several days or more to test an entire program,” Larivee said.
Testing of all Hampshire House residents in Manchester and staff took place the week of May 4, the soonest he said they could arrange it after the first residents reported feeling ill and went into isolation.
“Due to the number of staff out sick, over the weekend of May 9 and 10, Hampshire House residents were relocated to other approved locations, including home confinement and other reentry programs where they remained isolated from other residents…,” Larivee said.