Review of veterans home COVID outbreak underway

  • KELSEY WALLING/Tribune-Herald Health care professionals wear masks amid the coronavirus pandemic as they walk to their cars while leaving Hilo Medical Center on Thursday in Hilo.

  • KIM

A review is still underway into the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home COVID-19 outbreak response.

Allison Griffiths, a spokeswoman for Avalon Health Care Group, which manages the Hilo facility, said a physician from the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency was at the veterans home all day Wednesday.


“We are working closely with state and local health officials to ensure we are doing everything possible to safeguard our residents,” she said. “We are thankful for this collaborative relationship as we work together to stop the spread of the virus.”

Mayor Harry Kim, who said earlier in the week that the county had been requesting a review of the veterans home outbreak, said the HI-EMA physician will return today to continue his review.

The mayor said he also will meet with the doctor today.

In working to bring the veterans home to Hilo, Kim said the community promised to embrace the facility and make the residents feel that they found another home.

“I really feel like we broke our promise,” he said. “And I don’t care what the review shows or doesn’t show, I really feel that. We asked them to entrust the lives of their loved ones to us …”

A total of 64 residents and 24 employees at the veterans home have tested positive for the virus since late August. Of those, 14 residents and three employees have recovered, according to an update provided by Hilo Medical Center on Thursday afternoon.

Three residents are hospitalized at HMC, and 37 residents are being cared for in a designated COVID-19 unit at Yukio Okutsu.

No new deaths were reported Thursday, but a total of 10 resident deaths related to COVID-19 have occurred.

According to Griffiths, there currently are 72 residents living in the facility. Admissions have been halted, she said, and only three or four families have moved their resident out of the veterans home due to COVID since the start of the outbreak.

A two-day unannounced inspection on compliance with state regulation, conducted by the the state Department of Health Office of Health Care Assurance, also began Wednesday at Yukio Okutsu and continued Thursday, confirmed DOH spokeswoman Janice Okubo.

An inspection report will be available in about a week, she said.

Additional testing is ongoing, according to Acting Hawaii District Health Officer Eric Honda.

There were COVID-19 cases recently reported in an associate at Life Care Center of Hilo and a contractor at Hale Anuenue Restorative Care Center.

“DOH is in communication with facilities regarding their response and management of staff and residents,” Honda said. “Testing has been completed for staff and residents, with additional testing planned.”


Honda said no new cases have been reported at this time in any other long-term care facility on the Big Island.

Email Stephanie Salmons at

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