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Monday 27 April 2020 | Written by Legacy Author | Published in Small World


PACIFIC – Pacific Islanders living in the United States have an infection rate two to three times the average in at least four American states, according to data released Sunday by the Pacific Islander Center of Primary Care Excellence, a California-based group.

The organisation cited the “alarming disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities,” and announced it has formed a Covid-19 Response Team to focus on Covid-19’s impact on the US-based Pacific Islander community.

Many states don’t separate data on Native Hawaiians and Pacific islanders. But in states where statistics are available, they show that the highest rates of infection are in Pacific island communities.

Oregon statistics show Pacific islanders nearly triple the state average, while Salt Lake County in Utah –home to a large concentration of islanders where the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is located – is double the state Covid-19 average for 100,000 people.

Challenges for Pacific island communities to contain the spread of Covid-19 are cultural norms for social gatherings and large numbers of family members living in one home, making self-isolation nearly impossible.

“The challenges that Pacific Islander communities are facing with Covid-19 are the same challenges we have been dealing with for decades,” said Melisa Laelan, the President and founder of the Arkansas Coalition of Marshallese. “It is that of housing, food security, employment, and access to health care. The lack of these things makes our community vulnerable to Covid-19,” she said.

“This pandemic magnified many of the gaps that have been overlooked for a long time. Things are bad and it will get worse if we don’t aggressively work on these structural issues.”

Dr Raynald Samoa, an endocrinologist in Los Angeles, is leading a team of Pacific Islander researchers and community leaders in developing a plan of action to slow the spread and support those who are already affected,according to the Pacific Islander Centre of Primary Care Excellence.

The Response Team is working with representatives from regions with high Pacific islander populations to collect data, consolidate resources, and plan an infrastructure of response to anticipate and address the needs in the community,” said the organization.