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Coronavirus death toll at Hawaii veterans home grows to 18

HILO, Hawaii — An outbreak at a Hawaii veterans home has killed 18 residents and yielded three different investigations by state and federal officials.

There have been 69 residents at the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home that have tested positive for the coronavirus, 28 of whom are receiving care in the Hilo Medical Center’s designated coronavirus unit. Four additional residents have been hospitalized and 19 have recovered, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported.

Two residents at the veterans home died of the coronavirus on Friday. The 18 deaths at the veterans home account for all but one of the deaths on Hawaii Island.

The veterans home has had a history of falling short on their health standards, officials said. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services gave the home a health inspection rating of one star out of five.

The veterans home committed multiple health violations between 2018 and 2019, including improperly restraining residents who did not require restraint, failing to adequately supervise residents showering, serving expired food, allowing a resident to fall off a bed and break a hip and incidents where staffers accidentally caused minor injuries.

According to a 2018 CMS inspection, several residents have been found to have left the home without supervision, including one case where a resident on a wheelchair was found 3 miles away before any staff realized the resident was missing.

The veterans home has been fined twice since 2018 for these violations, paying almost $21,000 in 2018 and about $9,000 in 2019.

The three investigations will be conducted by the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, the state Department of Health and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The state reported 114 new confirmed cases on Friday, according to the state Department of Health. There have been 120 deaths from the coronavirus in the state since the pandemic began.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

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