HONOLULU — State Department of Health officials Friday reported three additional coronavirus-related deaths on O‘ahu and 87 new infections statewide, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to 142 deaths and 12,601 cases.
There were no new cases on Kaua‘i.
The three O‘ahu fatalities were a man “who was 80 or older” and two women, both in the 60-to-69-year-old age group. All three had underlying medical conditions and had been in the hospital when they died, according to health officials.
The DOH has yet to officially count more than a dozen of the latest deaths at the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home in Hilo on Hawai‘i Island, which has been the site of a major COVID-19 cluster.
Hilo Medical Center reported that 27 of the Big Island’s 29 coronavirus-related deaths have been residents of the nursing home. However, the state’s official death toll includes only 15 Hawai‘i Island fatalities.
In addition to the 15 Hawai‘i Island deaths, the official death toll includes 117 on O‘ahu, and nine in Maui County, while one fatality was a Kaua‘i resident who died on the mainland.
The U.S. death toll reached over 208,400 Friday.
Family sues veterans home
The family of a man who died after contracting the coronavirus in a Hawai‘i Island veterans home filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the facility where 27 residents have died because of COVID-19.
The sons of Chris Drayer filed the lawsuit against the operator of the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home in Hilo, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.
Noah Bennett-Drayer and Daniel Bennett-Drayer allege their father died as a result of “substandard care and non-existent health-safety practices” by Utah-based Avalon Health Care and four of its affiliates.
Chris Drayer, 70, was tested for the coronavirus Aug. 28, but his sons were not notified about his positive test result until Aug. 31, the lawsuit said. The U.S. Army veteran who served in Vietnam died Sept. 2.
“Chris Drayer did not deserve to die at Yukio. He died because Avalon failed to keep him safe,” attorney Jeffrey Foster said in a statement.
Officials said 71 residents and 35 employees have contracted the virus at the 95-bed veterans home.
Avalon spokeswoman Allison Griffiths said she could not comment on individual cases because of privacy laws, but said the “health and safety of our residents is always our top priority.”
State government hospital administrators are preparing to take over the operations of the home following calls for the company’s removal by Hawai‘i Island Mayor Harry Kim. Avalon has relinquished control to the Hawai‘i Health Systems Corporation.
Avalon experienced additional outbreaks in June and August at its Hale Nani Rehabilitation and Nursing Center facility on O‘ahu, where 42 residents and 40 workers tested positive and five residents died of the virus.
At least 21 Hawai‘i nursing homes have reported coronavirus cases among staff or residents, including 15 homes in Honolulu, two on Maui and four on Hawai‘i Island, the DOH website said.
Hawai‘i, Bahamas bowls canceled
The Hawai‘i and Bahamas college football bowl games were canceled by ESPN Events on Friday because of the pandemic and related travel restrictions. The games are typically played in December and are two of 17 owned and operated by ESPN. The cancellation brings the total number of postseason major-college football games still tentatively on for this season down to 39.
College basketball tournaments traditionally held in Hawai‘i and the Bahamas have also been canceled for this season. The Bahamas Bowl matchup this year was set pit a Conference USA team against a Mid-American Conference team. The Hawai‘i Bowl was set to host a team from the Mountain West Conference and a Conference-USA team.
CEO accused of fraud to be released on $2M bond
A CEO of a Hawai‘i company accused of defrauding banks of money meant to assist businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic can be released on $2 million bond, a U.S. judge ruled Friday.
Martin Kao, CEO of Martin Defense Group LLC, formerly known as Navatek LLC, is charged with bank fraud and money laundering. Authorities say he defrauded banks of more than $12.8 million through the federal Paycheck Protection Program. Congress authorized the program to provide emergency financial assistance through forgivable loans to small businesses for job-retention and other expenses.
Kao transferred more than $2 million into his own personal accounts, according to a criminal complaint. Investigators talked to an executive and a former employee who said the company wasn’t affected by the pandemic, the complaint said.
Kao shouldn’t be released from the Honolulu Federal Detention Center because he lied about his assets, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Nolan. Kao didn’t disclose to court officials all the property he owns, Nolan said.
In a previous line-of-credit renewal, he told a bank he owns property in Taiwan valued at $16 million, but told court officials the property is worthless, Nolan said.
A home in Tokyo valued at $7 million and a $6 million home in San Francisco were among the properties Kao failed to list for pretrial services, Nolan said.
Kao, a U.S. citizen, also has some type of legal status in Taiwan, where he was born, and has the means to flee there on a private or chartered jet, Nolan said.
“We are extremely concerned that he apparently has been dishonest with pretrial services and therefore the court,” Nolan said, adding that if Kao lied to a bank, he committed additional bank fraud.
Defense attorney Victor Bakke said Kao spoke with pretrial services over the phone after being unexpectedly arrested under “stressful conditions.”
U.S. Magistrate Judge Kenneth Mansfield said he was concerned about the discrepancies but isn’t persuaded by the argument that if someone has the means to flee, they will.