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No more coronavirus infections in Life Care Center of Hilo

Administrators at Life Care Center of Hilo are “ecstatic” that the facility has been free of active COVID-19 cases since Wednesday, but said they will remain vigilant in the fight against the virus.

“We really are happy but hesitant to celebrate,” Senior Executive Director Mark Mann told the Tribune-Herald on Thursday. “We know there’s a long way to go with this COVID situation.”

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In-house physician Gary Johnson said the last resident tested positive on Oct. 18 and was officially considered recovered on Wednesday. He said there were no active COVID-19 cases in the building as of about noon Thursday.

“It’s been a long haul,” Johnson said. “Who knows what will happen tomorrow, but right now we’re COVID free and grateful for that.”

Fifty-five Life Care residents and 17 employees had been diagnosed with the coronavirus since late September. Ten residents died from the virus during the outbreak.

All employees have recovered.

Mann said Life Care has learned much through this process and will continue to be vigilant through education and reminding staff to practice precautions not only at work, but outside of work as well.

Life Care also learned that fighting COVID-19 “takes everyone, and you have to have your systems and processes (in place) and be implementing them.”

Johnson said the facility will continue its screening processes and also will retain its COVID unit established earlier in the year, “so we will be prepared if we need to use it again.”

Mann said twice-weekly testing will continue for the immediate future.

Staff also will use rapid antigen tests for any residents who have symptoms of the virus.

According to Mann, Life Care Center will resume admissions of new residents. As it was prior to the outbreak, Mann said new admissions will have their own wing where they will be quarantined for 14 days.

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“We’ve had more cases (of COVID-19) nationwide this week than ever before,” Mann said. “We’ve survived one battle, but we know the COVID story is not over, and we’re going to be vigilant and proactive and continue doing all the things we’ve been doing to keep this out of the building. … We’re very happy with where we’re at, but know there’s not time to take a break.”

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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