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Family sues Hawaii veterans home over father’s virus death

October 2, 2020 GMT

HONOLULU (AP) — The family of a man who died after contracting the coronavirus in a Hawaii veterans home filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the facility where 27 residents have died because of COVID-19.

The sons of Chris Drayer filed the lawsuit against the operator of the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home in Hilo, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Thursday.

Noah Bennett-Drayer and Daniel Bennett-Drayer allege their father died as a result of “substandard care and non-existent health safety practices” by Utah-based Avalon Health Care and four of its affiliates.

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Chris Drayer, 70, was tested for the coronavirus Aug. 28, but his sons were not notified about his positive test result until Aug. 31, the lawsuit said. The U.S. Army veteran who served in Vietnam died Sept. 2.

“Chris Drayer did not deserve to die at Yukio. He died because Avalon failed to keep him safe,” attorney Jeffrey Foster said in a statement.

Officials said 71 residents and 35 employees have contracted the virus at the 95-bed veterans home.

Avalon spokeswoman Allison Griffiths said she could not comment on individual cases because of privacy laws, but said the “health and safety of our residents is always our top priority.”

State government hospital administrators are preparing to take over the operations of the Yukio Okutsu home following calls for the company’s removal by Hawaii island Mayor Harry Kim. Avalon has relinquished control to Hawaii Health Systems Corporation.

Avalon experienced additional outbreaks in June and August at its Hale Nani Rehabilitation and Nursing Center facility on Oahu, where 42 residents and 40 workers tested positive and five residents died of the virus.

At least 21 Hawaii nursing homes have reported coronavirus cases among staff or residents including 15 homes in Honolulu, two on Maui and four on Hawaii island, the health department’s website said.

For most people, the 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.

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.