(BIVN) – State officials on Wednesday were asked during a news conference about the outbreak at the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home in Hilo, where – as of this morning – sixteen residents have died with COVID-19.
Governor David Ige said the State did send in a quality assurance team for several days last week, “and they did a top-to-bottom review of procedures and policies.”
Over the weekend, Mayor Harry Kim was critical of the handling of the situation at the home, and called for Avalon Healthcare – the company managing the facility – to step aside.
Hawaiʻi Emergency Management Agency director Maj. Gen. Ken Hara added that they they “put in a request for assistance and we’re receiving about 20 healthcare specialists. These will be nurses specializing in infection control, employee health, and then other specialties – for example safety and industrial hygiene, housekeeping, and logistics,” he said.
Hara said he expected the specialists would arrive today, “and then start the transition of assisting” the veterans home.
When asked about the growing discrepancy between the Hawaiʻi island deaths reported by the State (3) versus the County (17), Governor Ige said, “there is a very specific protocol for confirming when someone dies, whether it is due to COVID or not. And we do announce the statistics as soon as the State of Hawaiʻi receives that report.”
“In many instances, even for individuals just becoming COVID positive, the individual is informed first,” Ige said, “and we do inform the public once we
become aware. But oftentimes, because of social media, and because the individuals have the information ahead of when we officially get notified, there is a lag in the reporting of the data.”
Lt. Governor Josh Green said that he has read the preliminary report on the Yukio Okutsu Sate Veterans Home situation. “The heartbreak there is monumental,” Green said, speaking by videoconference where he is isolating with COVID-19. “This is what, sadly, we’ve seen all across the country. When institutions of any kind have outbreaks, they spread rapidly
through an institution, because of close proximity of people. We saw that in our prison and, of course, we saw it over at the veterans nursing home. It’s also happened in every other state.”
“The challenge, of course, is that we see fatalities at a high rate because – and this is from the report – the age of the individuals in question that that got sick, some of whom died,” Green said. “They’re very old. Almost all of them had very severe, underlying conditions. And that is not to make excuses, in any way, whatsoever. But it it is the reason that it happens. ”
“I can tell you, if I put my physician hat on,” Green added, “a lot of the individuals, God bless them, had made choices to not, under any circumstance – whether they got sick with pneumonia or COVID or heart attack – they were not going to ask to have life-sustaining, life support systems, like breathing tubes, ventilators. So that’s why you do see a very high mortality rate amongst kūpuna.”