Hale Kūʻike COVID Pandemic Information and History
Updated: May 6, 2023
The last three years have been the most challenging we have ever experienced at Hale Kūʻike. In March 2020 when COVID-19 started spreading fast through the United States, we went into a full lockdown along with the rest of the world. We watched as outbreaks at mainland care homes spread like wildfire. We mourned the staggering number of deaths of those in long-term care.
We turned to the guidance of the US Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization, Hawaii State Department of Health and the Healthcare Association of Hawaii to help us navigate this world crisis. Our first step after our initial lockdown was to form an internal COVID crisis response team. This core team put together our pandemic policies and procedures for staff and families. As the pandemic and virus evolved, they continued to update and modify our policies to keep up to date with evolving scientific data and health policy.
This team also made the decision to be completely transparent with our families and the public about our COVID policies and cases. Throughout the pandemic we reported every staff and resident case to families and posted it on our Hale Ku’ike website.
In March 2020, our newest Pali location had only been open eight months, and was half full. Our very first action after our lockdown was to turn our vacant first floor at our Pali location into a COVID isolation unit. In early 2020, hospitals were struggling, and we wanted to do what we could to help our residents avoid having to go into isolation at a hospital. Our action plan was to move any COVID-positive residents from any of our three locations to this isolation unit to care for them. We kept this unit prepared and on standby until after the vaccines were available in 2021.
Our first staff case was in July of 2020, and other staff cases followed during that first year of lockdown. Our staff wore masks and face shields, and were regularly tested. During that first year, no residents contracted COVID and we did not have to use the isolation unit.
During the full year of lockdown, our families could not enter our homes. We did our best to keep up connections through virtual visits, phone calls, old-school letter writing, and window visits. We started using the Eversound wireless headphone microphone system to facilitate our window visits. It allowed families and residents to hear each other clearly through the window.
We worked hard to create a COVID bubble for our residents during that first year under lockdown. We tried to keep our daily routines the same as they had always been. We never stopped group dining and activities. We also did not, and still do not, require our residents to wear masks. Because of their dementia, wearing a mask is just too difficult for them. The rhythm and routine of their daily lives in our homes did not change. Thankfully, almost all of our residents were blissfully unaware of the pandemic at all. We kept them busy and socially engaged, and did not dwell or talk about the pandemic with them.
Our staff and families, on the other hand, felt the pandemic first year lockdown keenly. The pandemic stress was so challenging for everyone, physically and mentally. We tried to help by providing on-line family support groups, and an on-line meditation and prayer group for those interested. We also provided an on-line support group for our staff.
When the vaccines became available in January 2021, our staff and residents were some of the first to receive them. 100% of our residents and staff have received their COVID vaccine and booster. It was such a joyous day when we all finished our initial round of vaccinations, and we were able to reopen for families to visit in person after a full year of separation.
During 2021 and 2022 the community case surges affected everyone. When community numbers were high, we saw increases in staff cases. In May 2022, over two years into the pandemic, we had our very first resident case. Thankfully, by that point in time, there were some treatment options available. Since that first case we have had many resident cases at all three of our locations.
We cannot say enough about the incredible work that our staff did at this time. In spite of personal risk, they continued to provide the best possible care and support to our residents. Our staff supported each other through the surges, and when we had resident cases. They covered for each other and worked long hours and extra shifts when we faced staff shortages due to staff cases. We are so proud of our Hale Kūʻike Nuuanu, Bayside and Pali teams, and eternally grateful for their dedication and loving hearts.
Now in 2023, we have adjusted to living with and accepting COVID as part of our daily lives. Our homes are now fully open for family visits and our residents go out with their family members. We still maintain the basic transmission precautions of masking and vaccination for staff and residents, but we do not place any limits on resident or family activities or interactions. We do not want COVID to stop our families from connecting with and having moments of joy with their loved ones every day they can.