October 11, 2020
  • Opinion

Preventing COVID-19 infections in my Pacific Islander community

Preventing COVID-19 infections in my Pacific Islander community
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By Lisia Satini

The year 2020 has been a very challenging year for everyone, especially for Latino and Pacific Islander communities. As of October 16, 3,152 Pacific Islanders have contracted COVID-19, the second highest infection rate of all races/ethnicities. Twenty seven Pacific Islanders have died of COVID-19 in Utah – a rate of 8.6 deaths per 1,000 cases.

That is why I and other community health workers are trying to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 by reducing stigma surrounding the virus and building confidence in following public health protocols.  We have distributed over 7,000 masks to Pacific Islander-owned businesses and family gatherings, such as birthdays, funerals, reunions, and weddings.

We have also offered Zoom meetings as a platform to talk openly about the virus, allowing recovered COVID-19 Pacific Islanders to share their stories. We are sharing instructions on the importance of wearing a mask, hand washing, and social distancing in translated languages for Pacific Islanders. 

This is all happening through the Utah Pacific Islander Health Coalition (UPIHC), which is part of the COVID Community Partnership Project that our very own Sen. Luz Escamilla got funded through the Utah Department of Health. The purpose of this community-based organization is to foster community health related to COVID 19 in underserved and underrepresented communities, particularly the Pacific Islander community in Utah.

Getting the number of COVID-19 cases down is difficult for a number of reasons, including lack of access to updated COVID-19 education; lack of support from Pacific Islander leaders; ongoing family events; lack of resources such as masks; and lack of access to health services for the Pacific Islander community.

“Life is better with family” is an idea we’re sharing in our community, meaning that as we stay safe and stay home, we can also stay alive to enjoy our families.

However, some Pacific Islanders have other family members living with them in multiple family or multigenerational households, where physical distancing is exceptionally hard to practice. As a result, many of our people are getting COVID, and we are working hard to make changes.

We will continue to distribute masks and educate community members to help decrease our case numbers. We want to help those with symptoms to come forward so they can have a place to isolate or have food delivered to them. We are working to build a network of support in the Pacific Islander community to avoid shaming of those infected with the virus by focusing on the virus rather than the individual; to be understanding that we’re on pause and to wait for family gatherings or to keep them small; and to practice COVID-19 safety procedures, such as wearing a mask in public and staying home if infected.

As the journey continues, we seek to improve the quality of life for our people as we continue to offer education, wellness services, and advocate for the Pacific Islander community. We can work together to keep our families healthy.  #staysafe #stayhome #stayalive #ccppiut

Lisia Satini is a resident of the Fairpark neighborhood, and the UPIHC CCP Project Coordinator.