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Hawaii COVID-19 Hospitalizations Vary Widely By Race And Ethnicity

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Hawaii COVID-19 Hospitalizations Vary Widely By Race And Ethnicity

Picture of Anita Hofschneider
Honolulu Civil Beat
Monday, December 14, 2020

More Pacific Islanders, excluding Native Hawaiians, have been hospitalized for COVID-19 than members of any other racial or ethnic community in Hawaii, comprising 33% of Hawaii coronavirus hospitalizations even though they make up just 4% of the state’s population.

That’s according to the state Department of Health, which posted COVID-19 hospitalization data by race on its website Monday for the first time since the pandemic began in March.

As of Monday, 339 Pacific Islanders have been hospitalized for the coronavirus, more than three times the number of white Hawaii residents and nearly three times as many Japanese residents in the islands.

The City and County of Honolulu is sharing COVID-19 messages in Tongan.

Non-Hawaiian Pacific Islanders, including Polynesians, Micronesians and Melanesians, make up 4% of Hawaii’s population of nearly 1.4 million, compared with 25% for white residents and 15% for Japanese residents. Pacific Islanders have relatively high rates of diabetes, obesity and other diseases that are associated with worse COVID-19 outcomes.

Filipinos, who make up 16% of the state’s population, comprised 22% or 226 COVID-19 hospitalizations, the next-highest number for any racial or ethnic group in Hawaii. That’s twice the number of white residents who have been hospitalized.

The hospitalization data reflects trends in Hawaii’s pandemic case counts: Pacific Islanders and Filipinos are the only Hawaii ethnic groups that are disproportionately represented in the state’s reported coronavirus and hospitalization data.

Native Hawaiians don’t have a disproportionately high rate of coronavirus cases or hospitalizations. But they do represent the third-highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations, reporting 162 hospitalizations. Like Filipinos and other Pacific Islanders, Native Hawaiians have relatively high rates of noncommunicable diseases like diabetes.

The data isn’t complete. The state doesn’t know the hospitalization status of more than 1,800 COVID-19 cases in which race data is available. And race data is missing for nearly 4,400 cases.

In all, Hawaii has had more than 19,400 coronavirus cases, with 274 deaths. Non-Hawaiian Pacific Islander, Japanese and Filipino residents have experienced the highest number of deaths, although the state Department of Health has previously said that among COVID-19 cases, race is not a risk factor for coronavirus deaths in Hawaii after controlling for age and underlying conditions.

Click here to review the new state data.

Click here to read Civil Beat’s reporting on pandemic disparities. 

This story was produced with support from the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism National Fellowship and its Dennis A. Hunt Fund for Health Journalism.

[This story was originally published by Honolulu Civil Beat.]

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