Positive COVID-19 Cases Reported at Hilo VA Home

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Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home. Website photo.

Seven residents and three staff members at Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home have tested positive for COVID-19, officials confirmed.

According to an online post from the VA home, two of those residents are being treated at Hilo Medical Center and five are in isolation at the facility. The positive staff members are self-isolating at home and will not return to work until medically cleared.

“Based upon our contact tracing, we believe the virus entered the facility through a staff member who was exposed in the community,” the post stated.

Any residents experiencing signs or symptoms are isolated and tested. All staff is wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) in line with CDC guidelines. Facility leaders are also following the CDC and CMS guidance that applies once a nursing facility has a confirmed COVID-19 positive case, as well as working closely with physician partners and the Department of Health.

The initial staff member tested positive on Aug. 22 followed by another on Aug. 23 and the third on Tuesday. The seven resident results were also received Tuesday.


All residents and staff were tested for COVID-19 on Aug. 23-24. We have received the results from the Aug. 23 testing and those from Aug. 24 are pending.

“We are working diligently to limit the spread of the virus to other residents of the facility and are communicating this news to our residents, staff, and their loved ones,” the post stated.

At this time, only essential visitors and vendors are being allowed access to the VA home on a case-by-case basis. The VA home continues to follow CDC guidelines and screens all those who enter the facility.

Staff members are sent home if they report any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 or other illnesses.

With the additional coronavirus cases reported in East Hawai‘i, Hilo Medical Center has now opened an eight-bed COVID-19 unit that can expand as needed. As of 9 a.m. today, the unit was at its current capacity.


“We are all hands on deck right now,” said HMC spokeswoman Elena Cabatu.

Cabatu said HMC has been working with long-term care facilities from day one of the pandemic. The nursing homes would quarantine patients they receive from the hospital and then retest them.

“They’re doing screening like we’re doing screening,” Cabatu said. “We can be as careful as possible but it’s a tricky virus and it seems to be making its way around. It’s not a matter of if, but when we see an outbreak.”

There are currently 13 COVID-19 patients at HMC. As of Tuesday, the ICU was full — five of the patients were being treated for the coronavirus. Those in the ICU being treated for the virus are in a “pod” to eliminate the possible spread.

Cabatu said the hospital’s inventory of PPE is adequate, however, they anticipate that they’ll see real-time burn rates that will help them inform their inventory supplies going forward.


“We are constantly assessing our situation,” Cabatu said.

HMC is working with Hawai‘i County Civil Defense Agency and the DOH.

“Generally speaking we are keeping a pulse on as many developments we can,” Cabatu said. “We’re seeing clusters develop in completely unrelated cases.”

As cases continue to crop up, Cabatu said they have to be flexible and adjust as quickly as possible.

“This is the time for the community to really hunker down and get tested,” she said, adding the importance of physical distancing and wearing face masks.

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