9th coronavirus fatality reported at Hilo veterans home

Updated: Sep. 8, 2020 at 2:58 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A ninth resident at a Hilo care home struggling to respond to a coronavirus outbreak has died after testing positive for COVID-19, officials said.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson said a total of 59 residents and 20 employees at the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home have tested positive for the virus.

Three residents have been hospitalized. Seventh-four veterans and their spouses live at the facility.

A spokeswoman for Avalon Healthcare Group, which manages the veterans home, says HI-EMA is coordinating an outside review of the facility which will start soon. On Wednesday, Premier Medical Group will launch three rounds of testing for residents, staff and their close family members.

“The facility has its pandemic plan in place and is prepared to expand its COVID unit following all CDC guidelines,” said Allison Griffiths, of Avalon Healthcare Group.

Ashlee Mahi-Miyasaki says her 72-year-old father, Darnell Mahi, was part of first wave of positive cases at the facility last month. The Vietnam veteran spent two days in the ICU at Hilo Medical Center and is now cleared of the infection, but is still battling stage III colon cancer and trying to catch up with family.

“Bless him. He he was able to overcome,” said Mahi-Miyasaki.

The new figures come amid calls to ask for federal assistance to address the outbreak.

In a letter Sunday, US Sen. Brian Schatz called on Gov. David Ige to ask the Department of Veterans Affairs for help ― saying it’s clear that the state home is “understaffed” and “ill-equipped” to stop the outbreak.

Schatz went on to say he was “concerned that the state and county have been too slow to respond to the crisis with the urgency that it demands.”

As of Monday, 58 veterans and 18 employees have tested positive for the virus.
As of Monday, 58 veterans and 18 employees have tested positive for the virus.(Hawaii News Now)

In a phone interview earlier Monday, Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim responded to those claims.

“I resent Sen. Schatz making the statement of the county not responding,” he said.

“He should do his homework first, in regards to the county requesting an investigation and participation of the state government to review the situation.”

Kim said he had a conversation with Ige over the weekend and that he’s been assured the state will send a team to Hawaii Island as early as Tuesday.

That team, Kim said, is expected “to begin a total review of the situation on what’s been happening and what is happening and see what can be done.”

Later in the day, Schatz told Hawaii News Now he was not confident that the situation is under control and that he wants infection prevention specialists from the VA to assist in the response.

Meanwhile, Brenda Kenui and others from the Simply Sisters boutique Hilo organized a flower drive and delivered 60 floral arrangements and well-wishes to the door steps of the home on Sunday.

“It’s very heartbreaking to know that our kupuna are suffering there,” said Kenui

“We love you and you will get through this,” she added.

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