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Yukio Okutsu Veterans Home in Hilo records 15th death due to COVID-19

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
                                The Yukio Okutsu Veterans Home was dedicated in Nov. 2007. Another death has been recorded among residents of the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home in Hilo due to a COVID-19 outbreak, bringing the total death toll to 15.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

    The Yukio Okutsu Veterans Home was dedicated in Nov. 2007. Another death has been recorded among residents of the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home in Hilo due to a COVID-19 outbreak, bringing the total death toll to 15.

Another death has been recorded among residents of the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home in Hilo due to a COVID-19 outbreak, bringing the total death toll to 15.

Hawaii County Civil Defense this morning reported there are now 15 deaths at the home, which has been working desperately to contain the COVID-19 outbreak since it was first detected there in late August. The deaths, however, have not all been tallied yet by the state Health Department due to a verification process.

“Obviously we’re deeply saddened to lose another one of our beloved veterans to this horrible, devastating virus,” said Allison Griffiths, spokeswoman for the home’s manager, Avalon Health Care, “and we express our sincere condolences to the family and friends of the resident, along with our staff members, who view all our residents as an extension of their family.”

Since the first coronavirus-related death at the home was reported on Aug. 29, the number of infections and deaths have grown swiftly, prompting U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz to request help from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.

As announced by Schatz last week, a federal team from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is assisting with the outbreak at his request.

Griffiths said so far, a physician from Hawaii Emergency Management Agency is at the home, along with other staff and experts sent from the U.S. mainland by Avalon, which is based in Salt Lake City, Utah.

She said part of the federal team announced by Schatz is expected to arrive on Thursday, with the rest arriving on Saturday.

Since then, Schatz has also urged Avalon to review and improve its infection control practices at all three of its nursing homes in Hawaii, including at Avalon Care Center and Hale Nani Rehabilitation & Nursing Center in Honolulu, where there have also been outbreaks.

Upon the request of Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim, a state health team is also expected to conduct a review of the response to the outbreak at the home.

In its latest update posted online, the Veterans Home administration said 68 residents have tested positive for COVID-19. It said that 34 were being cared for at the home in a dedicated COVID unit, four were at a hospital, and 16 had recovered.

There were a total of 89 residents in the home prior to the outbreak, according to Avalon.

The administration also said a total of 30 staff members from the home have tested positive and are self-isolating at home. Five of those 30 have recovered.

Staff and residents have gone through several rounds of testing, with the last one on Tuesday.

Based on contact tracing, Avalon says it believes the coronavirus entered the home through an asymptomatic staff member in late August, as well as through a resident exposed at an outside dialysis appointment.

“Please know that our staff has been working tirelessly to care for our residents,” Avalon said on its website. “Being in the spotlight and so heavily criticized by the media and public officials has certainly been tough on all of us. We greatly appreciate the love and Aloha we have received from many of our family members and friends. COVID-19 has, unfortunately, hit the nation’s nursing homes the hardest as we care for the most vulnerable among us in a communal setting, which is supposed to be homelike and where residents retain rights and dignity.”

Click here to see our full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. Submit your coronavirus news tip.

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