OHA: Disproportionate Spike in COVID-19 Cases in Native Hawaiian Communities
News Release from OHA, August 7, 2021
While the entire State is experiencing a surge in positive test results, there has been a disproportionate spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in Native Hawaiian communities, according to an assessment of Health Department data by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. This comes after months of maintaining relatively low numbers.
“We must stay vigilant to protect ourselves and the people we love,” organization leaders said, urging the public to follow social distancing and mask guidelines and consider learning more about the COVID-19 vaccine.
COVID-19 highlights in relation to the Native Hawaiian population includes the following:
Over the past month (July), there have been 1,114 new COVID cases attributed to Native Hawaiian residents, which represents 32% of all COVID cases statewide (with an identified race). This is a disproportionate representation, as Native Hawaiians constitute only 21% of the state’s population.
Over the past month, COVID cases in the Native Hawaiian community have increased by 12%, compared to an 8% increase in cases statewide.
The number of new Native Hawaiian COVID-19 cases per week, increased by over 600% in the past two months from 63 new Native Hawaiian cases in the first week of June to 458 cases in the last week of July, outpacing increases in all other major race/ethnicity groups in Hawaiʻi.
Currently Native Hawaiians are underrepresented in vaccinated individuals, making up approximately 13% of vaccinated individuals, compared 21% of the general population. “Our best estimates indicate that the vaccination rate among the Native Hawaiian community may be as low as 35% (compared to the state average vaccination rate of 60%),” according to OHA.
“Currently, there is a concern that the higher case counts among Native Hawaiians will result in increased hospitalizations and deaths, particularly for those that are the unvaccinated,” OHA reports. “95% of Hawai’i residents who are hospitalized due to COVID are unvaccinated, because being vaccinated provides a level of protection against the severe health effects of the virus. These severe health effects may not be fully apparent for roughly 1-4 weeks, as those that are infected now become sicker over time. At which point, we will have lost the opportunity to protect our ‘ohana and community,” according to the OHA assessment.