HomePasifikaPacific Islanders make up 33% of Hawaii's COVID-19 hospitalizations

Pacific Islanders make up 33% of Hawaii’s COVID-19 hospitalizations

Photo courtesy of State of Hawai’i Department of Health

The latest report from Hawaii’s Department of Health reveals Pacific Islanders make up a third of the state’s Covid-19 hospitalizations, KHON2 reports.

According to KHON2, grassroots organizers and experts are already planning a vaccine distribution strategy. 

“We’re going to be in the first responder’s category, we’re going to be in a lot of those areas already,” Sheri Daniels, co-lead of the NHPI Hawaii COVID-19 R3 team, said. “But how do we make sure for those that maybe aren’t?”  

Despite making up only 4% of the state’s population, Pacific Islanders make up the highest percentage of cases and hospitalizations across all ethnic groups studied. According to Hawaii’s Department of Health, Pacific Islanders make up 33% of COVID-19 related hospitalizations, 26% of COVID-19 infections, and 23% of COVID-19 deaths. 

“We do want to make sure that people understand this has nothing to do with genetics,” Chantelle Matagi, the Department of Health’s Lead Investigator for the Pacific Island Contact Tracing team, said, KHON2 reports. “They’re not predisposed. This has everything to do with socioeconomic issues.”

The trends are also present across the nation. According to Vox, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are also being disproportionately impacted in Oregon, where NHPIs have the highest infection rate out of all ethnic groups. 

Yet, NHPIs remain excluded from the conversation, VOX reports. NHPIs were not included on Oregon’s priority testing list and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) does not disaggregate data on the Pacific Islander community from overall data on the Asian community. 

Grassroots organizations in Oregon are urging the CDC to provide data specific to the NHPI community, VOX reports. 

“When this pandemic hit, we thought, ‘Do we let these government agencies derail our community?’ or ‘Are we going to help our community get the resources that they need in a culturally respectful and competent way?’” Manumalo Ala’ilima said. “And a lot of us pivoted from our original missions, so that we could do this work together to serve our communities.”

“We’re not gonna leave our people hanging,” Ala’ilima, the co-chair and co-founder of the United Territories of Pacific Islanders Alliance Portland added.

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