House Committees Hear Health Experts on COVID-19 Spread in Nursing Facilities

July 10, 2020, 6:53 AM HST · Updated July 10, 6:53 AM
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Committee Chairs John M. Mizuno and Joy A. San Buenaventura talk to health experts during an informational briefing on COVID-19 in nursing facilities today. Photo by Hawaii House Democrats.

Several health experts spoke Thursday at an informational briefing on COVID-19 cases in nursing facilities before the House Health and the Human Services & Homelessness committees.

Care facility concerns were raised in June when a recent cluster of infections appeared at the Hale Nani Rehabilitation and Nursing Center on Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi’s largest skilled nursing facility.

Committee members expressed concerns about continued testing and providing PPE for smaller care facilities.

“Our kupuna are the most vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 so we must be extra cautious to make sure they are tested regularly and protected,” said Representative John M. Mizuno, Chair of the House Health Committee. “They cannot be overlooked.”

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State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park said the way the virus will enter a care home is not from the patients themselves, but through the staff and visitors who must be socially responsible to make sure they do not contract the virus through risky behavior and pass it on to the residents.

Dr. Scott Miscovich, President, Premier Medical Group Hawaii, said Hale Nani patients and staff have undergone several rounds of testing and all are now negative for the virus. Miscovich said with elderly care facilities, we need to be proactive not reactive.

Hilton Raethel, President and CEO of the Healthcare Association of Hawaiʻi, told the committees that every day the staff and visitors at all facilities have their temperatures taken and are screened for any contact with people that are ill or have symptoms of the virus.

Raethel said there have been no deaths from the virus in any of its elderly care facilities and Hawaiʻi continues to have the lowest infection and death rate in the country.

“Infection control is a key issue. The care homes must have the PPE and knowledge about what it takes to protect their residents,” said Representative Joy A. San Buenaventura, Chair, Human Services & Homelessness Committee. “These providers are essential workers just like workers in any hospital.”

The legislature has allocated $100 million in CARES Act funds to provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for schools, small businesses and health care facilities.

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