(BIVN) – Mayor Harry Kim called a news conference in Hilo on Saturday, speaking out on the worsening situation at the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home, where an outbreak of COVID-19 has contributed to the deaths of ten veterans.
“You scream out, and say this is not acceptable. How can this be?” said Mayor Kim, who spoke in solemn tones about the failure to prevent the situation from developing at the veterans home the way that it has.
Kim said that after having a meeting with a team of state and federal Veterans Affairs officials on Friday about a recent review of the veterans home’s procedures, he was told that the team were going to “go home”, and that changes would be recommended in a report. Kim said that the team “would come back in a few days” to see if the veterans home has implemented the recommended changes.
Kim said he told the team that the approach was “totally not acceptable,” and told them that “if you were under my command you wouldn’t even go home. You would do whatever we can from here on in, which is already too late for what we should have done in the beginning.”
Kim said he wanted the team to “immediately suspend the present administration” of the veterans home, “until a review is completed, and in the meantime replace the administrators to correct all the wrongs, now.”
“The only thing I hope for now is that we will prevent any further harm,” Mayor Kim said.
On Saturday, Avalon Health Care reported a total of sixty-six (66) residents at Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home have tested positive for the virus. Of those residents, it was reported 35 are being cared for at the facility in a dedicated COVID unit, 4 are being cared for at the hospital, and 17 have recovered. The number of veterans who tested positive for COVID-19 and have passed away remains ten (10).
The total number of staff members who have tested positive is 27, five of whom have recovered.
All residents and staff were re-tested on September 12, Avalon Health Care says.
Earlier in the day on Saturday, U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) called on Avalon Health Care to review and improve its infection control policies and practices as all three of its facilities in Hawai‘i have experienced COVID-19 outbreaks. “Given that outbreaks have occurred at all three of Avalon’s facilities in Hawai‘i, I am alarmed that Avalon’s facilities are not able to adequately protect its residents and staff,” Schatz wrote.