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$4.5M in federal funding to help Hawaii nursing homes fight COVID

The Hawaii Department of Health is slated to receive $4.5 million in new federal funding to help nursing homes and other long-term facilities deal with COVID-19 and other infectious disease outbreaks, according to U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz.

The funding comes from the American Rescue Plan, and includes nearly $2 million to staff, train, and deploy strike teams to assist nursing homes and other long-term care facilities with known or suspected COVID-19 outbreaks. The remaining $2.6 million will help the Health Department expand capacity to better fight infectious diseases, including more support for health care facilities with rapid response and containment, and training for frontline health care workers.

“Last year’s tragic outbreak at the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home has shown us how quickly COVID-19 can spread, how devastating it can be for the elderly, and how important it is to be prepared,” said Schatz, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, in a news release. “This new funding gives us more resources to increase staffing when there are outbreaks in nursing homes, protect patients and health care workers, and save lives.”

Last fall, the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home in Hilo experienced an outbreak that quickly spread among residents and staff in September, resulting in more than a dozen deaths, which prompted Schatz to call for immediate federal intervention.

The Department of Veterans Affairs mobilized a team that visited the veterans home and found a number of serious infection control issues that contributed to the deadly outbreak. At the start of this year, management of the home was transferred from Utah-based Avalon Health Care to Hawaii Health Systems Corporation, a state-owned health care organization.

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