Here we are, almost two years since first hearing about a virus coming out of Asia.
According to the Hawaiʻi State Department of Health, we have now suffered through more than 74,000 cases of the COVID-19 virus and have lost over 711 residents. For two months, hundreds of new cases have been reported daily and about 23% of them are Native Hawaiian although Native Hawaiians only make up 21% of the state’s population.
Throughout history, our people have been decimated by foreign diseases. From the ravages of venereal disease spread by Captain Cook’s crew to the 1853 smallpox epidemic that King Kamehameha III dealt with, Native Hawaiians have lost too many of our people. These diseases prompted Queen Emma to personally go door to door to raise funds to establish the Queen’s Hospital in 1859. Then in 1881, Queen Regent Liliʻuokalani instituted a travel ban and quarantine to combat an outbreak of smallpox in Hawaiʻi. Her efforts limited the outbreak to Oʻahu with not a single case being reported on any other island.
Our Aliʻi believed in the science, trusted the medical field, and ordered vaccinations for their people. Here we are today, a century and a half later, and we need to follow the example of our Aliʻi – believe in the science, trust the medical field, and GET VACCINATED. Losing even one person to this pandemic is unacceptable when we know it can be prevented.
Sen. Kurt Fevella and Rep. Stacelynn Eli have been leading the effort to get COVID-19 testing and vaccination events on the weekends in the heart of Native Hawaiian communities in Nānākuli and Waiʻanae. They have been partnering with Hawaiʻi Pacific Health, Papa Ola Lōkahi and community nonprofits to provide not only COVID-19 support services, but health screenings and eye exams at these sites as well. These safe spaces include entertainment, food, and health care professionals who are available to answer any questions community members may have.
If we are going to continue to fight for our ʻāina, our kūpuna, and our keiki, then we need to fight this disease. Knowing that our people only make up 21% of the state’s population, how can we continue to be okay with having our people be amongst the least vaccinated in the state? With the US census reporting more Native Hawaiians living on the continent, losing those still in Hawaiʻi to this pandemic needs to end.