THE FIERCE URGENCY OF NOW – ENGAGING PACIFIC ISLANDER COMMUNITIES IN HAWAI‘I TO CONTAIN COVID-19
News Release from East-West Center, August 22, 2020
The global COVID-19 pandemic, like every public health crisis, exposes societal fissures and failings. Almost inevitably, there are those who are left behind, where responses come too late. Here in Hawaiʻi, the COVID-19 epidemic has grown explosively since the end of July with an average of 220 cases a day reported in the week ending 21 August. But while the epidemic affects everyone, Hawai‘i’s Pacific Islander communities have been hit hardest of all.
Pacific Islanders other than Native Hawaiians have ten times the infection rate of all other ethnic groups in Hawai‘i. Furthermore, the rate of COVID-19 infection in these communities is growing much more rapidly than in the rest of the population.
Pacific Islander communities in Hawai‘i face unique socio-economic, historical, and cultural challenges in coping with COVID-19. Many are ineligible for Medicaid and either work in lower-paying hourly jobs or are unemployed. This forces them to either go without health care or rely on overburdened community clinics. As the COVID-19 epidemic spreads widely in the community, these community clinics are increasingly stretched thin, especially as many of their own staff are exposed and quarantined.
Pacific Islander households also tend to be multi-generational in nature, leading to crowded living quarters in Hawai‘i’s overpriced housing market. This makes it difficult for people to isolate, inviting rapid COVID-19 transmission....
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