The state is assisting Life Care Center of Hilo with its recent COVID-19 outbreak, which Gov. David Ige described as “unfortunate.”
State Department of Health personnel are consulting with care home administrators and offering help with testing and implementation of infection control measures, Ige said Monday during a Facebook Live stream with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
Life Care Center of Hilo reported two COVID-related deaths during the weekend
Twenty-three cases in residents were reported at the facility Sunday, 16 of which were still active, according to an update posted to its website Sunday afternoon. Initial cases were reported in early September.
Four residents were receiving treatment at Hilo Medical Center, while a fifth resident was receiving care at another facility.
Seven employees also tested positive as of Sunday, four of whom have fully recovered.
“We always knew that care homes would be a high-priority area, and we’ve implemented programs,” Ige said.
According to the governor, the state is working with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to distribute point-of-care testing units to every nursing home licensed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Long-term care facilities also have prohibited visitors and taken proactive measures to contain infections, he said.
“Our care home industry has really responded to this virus outbreak pretty well compared to national averages,” Ige said. “It’s unfortunate that we’ve had these two facilities in Hilo that have had outbreaks within the residents at those facilities.”
According to its website, Life Care Center will continue testing residents and staff twice a week until further notice.
In addition to using nasal swab tests, Life Care Center uses a point-of-care rapid test for anyone with symptoms. Any positive results are then confirmed with a follow-up nasal swab test.
Hawaii County Civil Defense Administrator Talmadge Magno said Life Care Center of Hilo is addressing the outbreak but also is receiving support from the state, county and even the “Tiger Team” assembled by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to assist with a recent outbreak at Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home.
Magno said outbreaks within long-term care facilities have “been a concern of ours from the beginning of this whole event … .”
Life Care Administrator Mark Mann did not return a call or email from the Tribune-Herald seeking comment.
The outbreak at Life Care Center comes on the heels of a larger outbreak at Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home. Seventy-one residents and 35 employees at the veterans home have tested positive for COVID-19 since late August, and 27 residents have died.
As of Monday, there were no COVID-positive residents at the veterans home, and two residents were still hospitalized at Hilo Medical Center.
No additional deaths were reported Monday. All 35 employees and 42 residents have recovered.
“We learned a lot, I think, in regards to the veterans home,” said Mayor Harry Kim late Monday. “We should (have). Hopefully we did.”
Outside the clusters reported at the care homes and a cluster at University of the Nations in Kailua-Kona, Kim said Hawaii Island is otherwise doing well to minimize the spread of the virus.
“The island is doing very well in regards to responding to make this a community issue,” he said. “That’s what it will take, and we will get through it.”
Eleven people remain hospitalized at Hilo Medical Center, including three patients in the hospital’s intensive care unit, seven in its COVID unit and one in its Extended Care Facility.
There have been three deaths at HMC unrelated to the outbreaks in the two Hilo care homes on Sept. 8, Sept. 18 and Oct. 4.
Reporter John Burnett contributed to this article.
Email Stephanie Salmons at firstname.lastname@example.org.