Report: Hilo veterans home employee stayed on the job for 3 days after COVID-19 exposure

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Updated: Oct. 10, 2020 at 10:41 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The coronavirus outbreak at the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home in Hilo may have begun with an employee who worked ― despite being linked to a large cluster.

That conclusion was included in a state Health Department report that seeks to understand what contributed to one of the deadliest outbreaks in the state.

The state Office of Health Care Assurance released its findings Friday following a month-long inspection of the home, where 71 residents and 35 employees have tested positive for the virus since August. Twenty-seven of those residents have died.

Utah-based Avalon Healthcare is no longer in charge of the veterans home, but the scope of its damage is severe.

The report found the facility “failed to maintain an infection prevention and control program.” Inspectors said that was evidenced by a lack of social distancing and poor PPE protocol.

Shockingly, the reportalso revealed an employee of the facility contracted the virus from a 20-person cluster and went to work for three days before finding out he tested positive.

Attorney Jeffrey Foster represents two families suing the home in wrongful death cases.

He said the report shows a “systemic failure at every level.”

“My heart goes out to the families that have to read this report,” he said. “To have to see what wasn’t done to protect their loved ones. It makes me sick.”

Foster said additional lawsuits will be filed in the coming weeks.

In a statement, the home’s private operator ― Avalon ― disagreed with the report’s findings and noted that the Department of Health unpublished the report to make clarifications.

The Avalon statement said:

“The Immediate Jeopardy Removal Plan was drafted by the facility, which it has to draft and submit pursuant to regulation. As I believe you’re aware, the Statement of Deficiencies was rescinded by OHCA this morning. Nonetheless, we disagree with the findings in the now rescinded report and will be exercising our appeal rights should the same allegations appear in any new report.”

The state said while there may be changes to the report, it stands by the facts found in the investigation.

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