Hawaii’s nursing homes are set to receive nearly $40 million in federal money to continue operations during the coronavirus pandemic.

The funding will go to 39 nursing homes across the islands to cover lost revenue and costs related to COVID-19, including staffing and purchasing personal protective equipment, testing and treating patients who develop the disease, U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said in a news release.

“Residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities are some of the most vulnerable to COVID-19, so we need to make sure we are doing all we can to protect them,” said Schatz, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “This new federal funding will give Hawaii nursing homes additional resources to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in these facilities and keep residents and workers safe.”

To date, there has been no outbreak of COVID-19 in local nursing homes, according to the state Department of Health.

Certified skilled nursing facilities eligible for the funding must have six or more beds and will each receive $50,000 and an additional $2,500 per bed. The funding is part of the $175 billion provider relief fund under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act.

Schatz has called on Gov. David Ige to ramp up efforts — including testing — to protect Hawaii residents living in long-term care facilities, as well as nursing home workers.

“To date, Hawaii has avoided any COVID-19 outbreaks at nursing homes and long-term care facilities, and I understand that health officials are coordinating with long-term care facilities to prepare for infections and prevent outbreaks. However, additional steps, including dramatically expanded testing, are necessary to continue to protect these vulnerable residents and the workers of these facilities,” Schatz wrote in a letter to Ige last week. On May 11, the White House recommended that all nursing home residents and staff be tested for COVID-19 within the next two weeks.

The DOH is in the process of selecting long-term care facilities across the state to survey to make sure it has not missed any cases, Health Director Bruce Anderson said at a COVID-19 briefing Thursday. Health officials will be testing staff and potentially nursing home patients as part of the program.

“It’s impractical to think that we can go test everyone in those facilities twice a week. We’d be talking about thousands and thousands of tests being done everyday,” Anderson said. “Our focus going forward is going to be to protect those individuals. We have been able to get PPE — masks, gloves and other supplies — to the long-term care facilities. Fortunately we haven’t had any outbreaks in our long-term care facilities. We have a luxury here of being in Hawaii to get ahead of the game and we have here in many cases.”

Kristen Consillio/ Star Advertiser