(BIVN) – The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has mobilized a team of infection control experts, nurses, and other health care professionals to provide immediate support and help contain a COVID-19 outbreak at the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home in Hilo, according to U.S Senator Brian Schatz (D, Hawaiʻi).
“More help is on the way,” said Senator Schatz. “This medical team will be a big help in containing the outbreak happening on the Big Island. My staff and I will continue working with the VA and state and local officials to make sure we are utilizing all the federal help that’s available.”
Schatz made an urgent request to the VA following rising COVID-19 cases and deaths at the Hilo facility. At last count, per Hilo Medical Center, a total of 64 residents and 24 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 at the home. Ten total resident deaths related to COVID-19 have occurred.
Sen. Schatz provided these details on the VA mission:
- VA Subject Matter Experts will conduct an onsite assessment in the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home in Hilo for infection control issues.
- The purpose is to formulate recommendations for interventions, processes, and procedures to address an outbreak of COVID-19.
- The VA team is expected to consist of: an infectious disease physician, a facilities engineer who understands environmental air flow and AC systems, an infectious disease nurse specialist with expertise in running COVID-19 units, a safety officer, an industrial hygienist, and a nurse manager.
Pressure has been mounting from the Congressional delegation. Along with the letter produced by Sen. Schatz, Representative Tulsi Gabbard – herself a veteran of two Middle East deployments – has been following the situation. She released the following statement on the 10th death at the Yukio Okutsu home, saying:
“Our nation’s heroes and their families made profound sacrifices for the country we love, and it is our honor to care for them in their time of need. Losing ten of my fellow veterans at the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home to COVID-19 leaves a profound hole in our hearts.
“It is unconscionable that these veterans who selflessly sacrificed so much now find themselves struggling to survive under the threat of this virus — yet another consequence of the lack of testing and contact tracing should have been in place months ago, that continues to plague our state.
“We are in close contact with those responsible for managing the facility to help provide support to contain this outbreak and prevent more undue suffering and loss of life. Not only is urgent action needed to protect our veterans, urgent action is needed to protect every person in our state.”