COVID deaths are rising in Hawaii, and history shows it’s likely to get worse

Published: Aug. 25, 2021 at 5:07 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 25, 2021 at 5:25 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Health officials said that the current death toll is the highest it has been since vaccines have become widely available, with more than 19 deaths over the past seven days.

On Wednesday alone, there were eight COVID deaths.

And history tells us it will likely get worse.

The peak of infections last year was on Aug. 12. Almost exactly a year later ― on Aug. 11 ― Hawaii had its highest day for cases ever. Shortly afterwards, the death toll spiked.

Also concerning is the huge disparity in COVID fatalities among ethnic groups.

Pacific Islanders, for example, only make up 4% of the population but 21% of the deaths.

According to state Department of Health data, the likelihood of a Pacific Islander dying from COVID is almost four times higher than any other ethnic group.

“It’s a combination of language barriers, cultural barriers, health barriers,” said Josie Howard, chief executive officer of We Are Oceania.

“So it makes our work a lot harder, it makes our population prone to suffer the most with COVID.”

We Are Oceania has been fighting to overcome disparities among Pacific Islanders throughout the pandemic. They have set up vaccination clinics, worked to help with communication barriers, and have tried other methods to stop the spread within their community.

“Families are scared,” said Howard. “I feel like the urgency right now is we have to stop the spread. And we have to keep everyone safe, whatever that measure is.”

Those of Japanese descent are another group with a death rate exceeding their population. They make up 19% of deaths but only 15% of the population. Other populations don’t have significant gaps.

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