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Skilled nursing facility grapples with large COVID outbreak despite high vaccination rate

Published: Sep. 27, 2021 at 5:36 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 27, 2021 at 5:42 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Despite a high vaccination rate, a skilled nursing facility in Nuuanu has seen 93 COVID infections this month.

The good news: The Care Center of Honolulu on Bachelot Street says the overwhelming majority of those who tested positive have recovered.

Still, family members say the situation is worrisome.

“When something like this happens then the fear,” said Sande Arakaki, who is a guardian for two adult patients who did not get infected.

“I believe the facility did all they could do by Department of Health and despite all that this occurred,” she said.

“It just ballooned from there so I was really surprised,” said another woman, who wanted to remain anonymous.

She says her adult son was vaccinated and did not get infected. He was offered antibody therapy.

“Because he is high risk along with some other patients so they had enough of the supply,” she said.

According to The Care Center of Honolulu, 62 residents and 31 staff tested positive this month. Seven were hospitalized.

All have recovered and the two hospitalized patients are in stable condition.

“We are in the last stages of clearing the COVID outbreak at our facility with all staff recovered and out of quarantine, and all but two asymptomatic patients who received care at the facility and will come out of COVID isolation on Thursday,” said the Care Center in a statement.

The Care Center told HNN that the outbreak came in from a newly admitted patient who was tested before coming in.

“While incoming patients are tested for COVID at the hospital within 72 hours prior to entering the Care Center of Honolulu, the testing does not always detect all cases due to fluctuating incubation periods or patients contracting the infection after taking the test,” said the facility.

Jomel Duldulao, long-term care ombudsman for Oahu, spoke with the facility’s administrator over the weekend.

“This is definitely a huge impact. Definitely I’m in awe. Just the amount,” said Duldulao.

“They found that they had this outbreak. They were testing every two to three days,” he added.

In a January 2021 inspection, federal inspectors found “the facility had failed to ensure precautions were implemented by staff to prevent spread of infections.”

The report also said “patients, healthcare personnel, and visitors to the facility are at an increased risk of exposure, transmission, and development of COVID-19 and other communicable diseases/infections.”

The Care Center of Honolulu said areas of improvement in that inspection were not severe and that a plan was accepted by the state Health Department.

“The state identified areas in need of improvement that were low in scope and severity. We took this seriously and implemented a plan of correction to address these areas, which we filed with the state within 10 days of receiving the report. The state accepted the plan, and the matter was resolved,” it said in a statement.

The facility says 80% of its residents and 91% of staff are vaccinated.

“Vaccination alone is not going to prevent COVID from entering a facility,” said Kealii Lopez, state director of AARP Hawaii.

She says the short staffed facility needs federal staffing reinforcements and the COVID vaccine should be mandatory for all long-term care facilities.

“Make it a mandate that your staff have to be vaccinated to be able to work there,” she said.

The Care Center says it’s looking into a requirement for staff, but per the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services it cannot require residents or visitors to be vaccinated.

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