Veterans Home Death Toll Reaches 23, VA Report Finds Fault With Avalon Practices

September 20, 2020, 5:35 PM HST (Updated September 20, 2020, 5:35 PM)
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Twenty-three residents of the Yukio Okutsu Veterans Home in Hilo infected with COVID-19 have succumbed to the virus, Hilo Medical Center (HMC) has confirmed. The death toll rose by one on Sunday.

A total of 52 veterans are currently residing in the state-run home, 18 of whom are being cared for in its designated COVID area. Six are hospitalized at HMC. A total of 69 residents and 32 employees at the home have tested positive for the coronavirus. Twenty-two residents and seven employees are considered recovered.

The US Department of Veterans Affairs sent a 19-person healthcare team to the Big Island to deal with the outbreak at the home. The VA team released a report that details serious infection control issues, which contributed to the deadly COVID-19 outbreak.

“This report makes clear that Avalon (Healthcare) did not take the steps necessary to protect its residents and staff,” Sen. Brian Schatz said in a statement Sunday. “We have known all along that nursing homes and their residents were particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, so it is infuriating to see that basic infection control practices were not in place months after the pandemic began. Avalon must take immediate action to address the recommendations of this report to ensure the safety of the veterans and staff at the State Veterans Home.”

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HMC Update

As of Sunday afternoon, 18 COVID-positive patients are being treated at HMC, with five admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) and one in the extended care facility.

All tests conducted on patients and staff in the extended care facility were returned with COVID-negative results. Follow-up testing is scheduled for Monday. Admissions to the extended care facility have been discontinued for the time being, the hospital said.

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