Updated: September 28, 2022
US Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) is calling for direct federal assistance with the COVID-19 outbreak at the Yukio Okutsu Veterans State Home in Hilo. This comes as five deaths have been reported at the facility, and 46 residents and 18 staff members have positive for COVID-19, according to Sen. Schatz.
“We need to contain this outbreak immediately, and we need federal help,” said Sen. Schatz. “I’m calling on the VA to immediately step in and deploy infection control experts and other health care professionals to the Big Island to get this under control. This is a public health emergency, and we need all the help we can get to stop this outbreak and save lives.”
In a pair of letters to Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie and Governor David Ige, Schatz raised concerns about the handling of the outbreak and called for immediate federal help to identify where the facility is falling short and how it can improve infection control protocols, use of personal protective equipment, and other measures that will protect its residents and the workers who care for them.
Schatz wrote, “It is increasingly clear to me that the state home is understaffed and ill equipped to stop this outbreak on its own. Moreover, I am concerned that the state and county have been too slow to respond to the crisis with the urgency that it demands, including with a request for more federal assistance.”
The state Department of Health has recorded only three COVID-19 related fatalities on Hawai‘i Island to date.