After 10 coronavirus deaths at Hilo care home, VA team deploys to try to stem the spread

After 10 coronavirus deaths at Hilo care home, VA team deploys to try to stem the spread

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Veterans Affairs has joined the effort to contain a large outbreak of COVID-19 at a Hilo nursing home that’s been linked to 10 deaths and scores of cases.

The federal team of infectious disease specialists was to arrive Friday.

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz is demanding answers from Avalon Healthcare Group, the company that manages the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home.

There were no new COVID-19 fatalities reported at the home Friday but the virus continues to spread. So far, 66 residents (of 74 at the home) and 27 employees have tested positive for the virus.

Four residents are currently hospitalized at Hilo Medical Center.

“Clearly, something has gone terribly terribly wrong,” Schatz said.

“The VA is sending in a doctor and a nurse and infection specialist to bring in the expertise that has been necessary to ensure that we minimize infections.”

Schatz said the team will join a multi-agency effort to stop the spread of COVID-19 at the home.

Avalon Healthcare Group says its contact tracing shows the virus was introduced into the facility through an asymptomatic staffer who was infected in the community and separately from a resident who was exposed at a Hilo dialysis center.

The company said they responded quickly after getting word of the first case.

“The second we learned, we were doing proactive measures certainly following all the CDC guidance as evidenced by such a long history of negative tests,” a spokeswoman said.

Avalon also said it was already doing multiple rounds of facility-wide testing when the state called for private testing through Premier Medical Group.

Meawhile, AARP is calling for greater state planning, accountability and transparency.

“We found out about these deaths like others through the media and the home itself provided the information. The state needs to be much more transparent,” said Kealii Lopez, of AARP.

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