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Pacific Islanders Have Highest COVID-19 Infection Rate In Oregon

<p>A medical assistant prepares to take a swab from a patient at a new drive-thru and walk-up coronavirus testing site Saturday, April 25, 2020, in Seattle. The site, open Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Rainier Beach neighborhood, is available to anyone displaying the virus symptoms, are pregnant, over 60 or have a chronic condition, as well as health care workers and first responders.</p>
<p>A medical assistant prepares to take a swab from a patient at a new drive-thru and walk-up coronavirus testing site Saturday, April 25, 2020, in Seattle. The site, open Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Rainier Beach neighborhood, is available to anyone displaying the virus symptoms, are pregnant, over 60 or have a chronic condition, as well as health care workers and first responders.</p>

COVID-19 infection rates among Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders in Oregon are 10 times the state average and 20 times the infection rate of white Oregonians, according to data from the Oregon Health Authority.

Manumlao Ala'ilima, co-founder of UTOPIA PDX, and Joe Enlet, consul general for the Consulate General of Micronesia, talked about some of the factors that contribute to this disparity on OPB's "Think Out Loud."  

Ala'ilima cited a lack of translated resources, a large number of Pacific Islanders in the essential workforce, and a need for information about workers' rights during the pandemic, combined with the amount of Pacific Islander intergenerational households.

Enlet advocates on behalf of these migrants.

"This non-access is one of the major reasons why a lot of our people are in a state of health that they're in," Enlet said.

As part of the Pacific Islander COVID-19 task force, Ala'ilima, alongside other organizations, hosted COVID-19 testing drives to encourage Pacific Islander communities to get tested. The drives have been successful, but the infection rate for Pacific Islanders is still steadily increasing.

Ala'ilima wishes to see local and state health organizations and political leaders meet the changing needs of Pacific Islanders in Oregon.

Copyright 2020 Oregon Public Broadcasting