Schatz Calls For Federal Intervention as Deaths at Hilo Veterans Home Increase

September 6, 2020, 5:37 PM HST (Updated September 6, 2020, 5:37 PM)
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Sen. Brian Schatz. 

A US senator from Hawai‘i says the state isn’t doing enough to stem a coronavirus outbreak in one of its Hilo veterans facilities.

As COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to rise at the Yukio Okutsu Veterans State Home in Hilo, hitting at least six on Sunday, US Senator Brian Schatz called for direct federal assistance with the outbreak.

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“We need to contain this outbreak immediately, and we need federal help,” said Senator Schatz. “I’m calling on the VA to immediately step in and deploy infection control experts and other health care professionals to the Big Island to get this under control. This is a public health emergency, and we need all the help we can get to stop this outbreak and save lives.”

In a pair of letters to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert Wilkie and Governor David Ige, Schatz raised concerns about the handling of the outbreak and called for immediate federal help to identify where the facility is falling short and how it can improve infection control protocols, use of personal protective equipment, and other measures that will protect its residents and the workers who care for them.

“It is increasingly clear to me that the state home is understaffed and ill-equipped to stop this outbreak on its own,” Schatz wrote. “Moreover, I am concerned that the state and county have been too slow to respond to the crisis with the urgency that it demands, including with a request for more federal assistance.”

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