Protecting kupuna: Advocates urge help for elderly care organizations amid outbreak

Updated: Mar. 9, 2020 at 9:35 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A group that advocates for senior citizens pressed the state for details on its plans to protect vulnerable kupuna.

The Kokua Council brought together Lt. Governor Josh Green and representatives from agencies that serve Hawaii's seniors on Monday.

"Older people can be in great danger so we want them cared for," said Larry Geller, Kokua Council's president emeritus.

There are nearly 13,000 long term care beds in Hawaii's nursing homes and other facilities, according to the Executive Office on Aging.

"Residents are starting to worry about this. They're worried about: 'Who's my roommate? Who just came in from the hospital? I hope that she is or he isn't carrying anything,' said long term care ombudsman John McDermott.

Some facilities that serve seniors have already added safety measures such as daily screenings and temperature checks for employees, visitors and vendors.

“The mortality rate can be as high as 14 percent for people who are over 80 years old and get COVID-19,” said Green.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends posted signs telling visitors with symptoms to stay away as well as and sick leave policies that allow employees to remain at home. Visits for residents who are ill should also be restricted.

"If someone has fever or cough or shortness of breath, and they are a resident of our long-term care facilities, we want them to stay in their rooms so they don't spread it to other individuals around them and we don't get an outbreak like we saw in Washington," said Green.

The lieutenant governor said that state officials are prepared to offer their support.

“We’ll make the PPE -- that’s the protective gear, the equipment, for face masks, eye protection, gowns, and gloves -- immediately available outside all of our residents’ rooms. If you run a facility or have loved ones in a facility and don’t see it, call me or my staff or call the healthcare association or the Department of Health,” said Green.

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