Pacific Islanders say they’re being ignored by state in ‘war’ against coronavirus

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Updated: Aug. 8, 2020 at 7:15 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Leaders of a Pacific Islander advocacy group say they’re being left behind in the state’s fight against coronavirus.

The group, desperate for help in fighting the virus, joined Lt. Gov. Josh Green in an online town hall meeting Thursday. They say even though Pacific Islanders are more likely to get COVID-19, they’ve been ignored.

“If it spreads among us rapidly and gets out of control, we will be losing more people,” said Jedrikdrik Paul, who spoke on behalf of Micronesian people.

Pacific Islanders have the highest rate of infection in Hawaii, a University of Hawaii study showed.

The data reported by Hawaii News Now in July showed that they have more than 527 coronavirus patients out of every 100,000 people, more than any other ethnic groups.

And new numbers show they made up 38% of all the cases the last week of July.

The study helped doctors who treat these patients to sound the alarm, but the advocacy leaders say the state Department of Health has been ignoring them.

Paul gave examples of patients who weren’t contacted for days.

“From the time that they were identified as positive to the (time) that the Department of Health reaches out to them, it’s just taking too long,” Paul said.

Headrick Hunkin, a pastor at Lighthouse Outreach Center, said the data cannot be hidden from the public out of fear. “Let’s be straight up with the community, let’s be honest,” Hunkin said.

“They need to know the statistics, they need to know the breakdown.”

Hunkin added being up front will show everyone how much their people are hurting.

Tina Pauasosi-Posiulai described the situation like this: ”We’re in a war and this population needs the help but we have to have that connection with the Department of Health and state government.”

Sticking to that theme, Green called for an army of contact tracers to flood Pacific Islander communities to help isolate and treat those who are sick, and then test those who they live with.

Zoom town hall meeting of Pacific Islanders, Lt. Gov. to discuss outbreak in their communities
Zoom town hall meeting of Pacific Islanders, Lt. Gov. to discuss outbreak in their communities(none)

State Health Director Bruce Anderson conceded this week that more resources are needed to help Pacific Islanders, especially for translators and outreach.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell was also blunt: “I think we forgot about this community,” he said.

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