VA to help quell COVID-19 outbreak in Hawaii veterans home

HONOLULU — The federal Department of Veterans Affairs has sent a team of health care staffers to help contain a coronavirus outbreak at a veterans home in Hawaii.

Ten residents have died at the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home in Hilo, officials said Friday, and the majority of its 74 residents have tested positive for the coronavirus after an asymptomatic employee is thought to have brought it on-site, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

Sen. Brian Schatz declared the outbreak a public health emergency and implored the VA this week to aid the home’s management of the situation. Schatz said the veteran’s home was understaffed and not equipped to halt the outbreak on its own.

The federal team will recommend processes and procedures to manage the outbreak, as well as conduct investigations into infection control issues that occurred in the home.

The team includes an infectious disease physician, a facilities engineer, an infectious disease nurse, a safety officer, an industrial hygienist and a nurse manager, the newspaper reported.

The state reported 167 new confirmed cases and two more deaths from the coronavirus on Friday, according to its state Department of Health. There have been a total of 10,459 confirmed cases and 96 deaths from the coronavirus in Hawaii since the pandemic began, the department said Friday.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

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