Death toll at veterans home rises to 18

HILO — An outbreak at a Hawai‘i veterans home has killed 18 residents and yielded three different investigations by state and federal officials.

There have been 69 residents at the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home that have tested positive for the coronavirus, 28 of whom are receiving care in the Hilo Medical Center’s designated coronavirus unit. Four additional residents have been hospitalized and 19 have recovered, the Hawai‘i Tribune-Herald reported.

Two residents at the veterans home died of the coronavirus on Friday. The 18 deaths at the veterans home account for all but one of the deaths on Hawai‘i Island.

The veterans home has had a history of falling short on their health standards, officials said. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services gave the home a health inspection rating of one star out of five.

The veterans home committed multiple health violations between 2018 and 2019, including improperly restraining residents who did not require restraint, failing to adequately supervise residents showering, serving expired food, allowing a resident to fall off a bed and break a hip and incidents where staffers accidentally caused minor injuries.

According to a 2018 CMS inspection, several residents have been found to have left the home without supervision, including one case where a resident on a wheelchair was found 3 miles away before any staff realized the resident was missing.

The veterans home has been fined twice since 2018 for these violations, paying almost $21,000 in 2018 and about $9,000 in 2019.

The three investigations will be conducted by the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, the state Department of Health and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

State provides grants to make PPE

HONOLULU — The state of Hawai‘i plans to provide $10 million in grants for small businesses to manufacture personal protective equipment during the coronavirus pandemic, officials said.

Democratic Lt. Gov Josh Green supports the grant program and said there is a lasting need for the health safety equipment, which will be significant in the fall and winter seasons, Hawai‘i News Now reported Saturday.

“We still have a lot patients, right now it’s 185 patients in the hospital today and that means you burn through a lot of PPE,” said Green, who is a physician. “Also, as we continue to test, we’re going to need PPE.”

The grants will be funded using federal coronavirus recovery funds and administered by the Hawai‘i Technology Development Corporation and the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

Len Higashi, acting executive director of the technology development corporation, said the program is an effort to keep Hawai‘i safe and provide jobs.

“We’re very grateful to be doing this and any opportunity that we can to put our people to work and make something that our community needs is a win-win situation,” Higashi said.

Kamanu Composites was one of the first three businesses awarded a grant. Co-founder Keizo Gates said the O‘ahu company began making face shields in March with supplies normally used to build canoes.

State reports 56 new cases

Hawai‘i Department of Health officials today reported 56 new coronavirus infections statewide, bringing the total number since the start of the pandemic to 11,459 cases.

The new infection cases in Hawaii today included 49 on Oahu and seven in Hawai‘i County.

The Health Department’s official death toll as of today includes 95 on O‘ahu, 15 on Hawai‘i island, and nine on Maui, while one was a Kaua‘i resident who died on the mainland.

Today’s total coronavirus cases by county since the start of the outbreak are 10,338 on O‘ahu, 651 in Hawai‘i County, 385 in Maui County, and 57 in Kaua‘i County. There are also 28 Hawai‘i residents diagnosed outside of the state.

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