Another Death at Hilo VA Home Brings Veteran Death Toll to 8

September 7, 2020, 2:00 PM HST (Updated September 7, 2020, 2:00 PM)
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Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home. Website photo.

Another COVID-19-related death at Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home brings the death toll among residents to eight, officials confirmed this afternoon.

As of Monday, there are 58 residents and 18 employees who have tested positive for the coronavirus. Two of the veterans are being treated at Hilo Medical Center and 34 are being cared for at the VA home’s COVID-19 designated area.

There are currently 13 patients at HMC being treated for COVID-19 — five are in ICU and eight are in the hospital’s COVID unit.

All veterans who succumbed to COVID-19 suffered from significant underlying health issues.

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“We offer our deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones,” HMC officials stated.

So far, 14 residents and one employee have recovered.

The outbreak in the VA home was first reported in August. Officials at the facility say contact tracing revealed it was introduced into the home by an employee who contracted the virus within the community.

On Sunday, US Sen. Brian Schatz called for direct federal assistance to the VA home. 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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