Why LA’s Pacific Islander community is especially susceptible to COVID-19
Los Angeles, CALIFORNIA — COVID-19 has taken an especially steep toll on communities of color. In LA County, the vast majority of cases and deaths are among Latinos. However, the highest rate of infection among any racial or ethnic group is taking place among LA’s Pacific Islander community. They’re three times more likely than Latinos to come down with the virus, with about 2500 per 100,000 taking ill. That’s all according to LA County’s COVID-19 dashboard.
To learn why this cohort is so susceptible to coronavirus and why those numbers are so high, KCRW talks with Dr. Raynald Samoa, endocrinologist at City of Hope and a member of the National Council of Asian Pacific Islander Physicians.
Are there specific traditions or practices that are common among Pacific Islanders that could be leading to increased transmission of the virus?
“Yes, so I think some of the things that are somewhat unique in Pacific Islander communities is there is a tendency to gather in large groups in regards to celebrations. A majority of Pacific Islanders are affiliated with a religious institution. So we are talking about a very high percentage of community members that subscribe to a certain faith and will gather when possible.
… Now there's a stigma of shame that comes with COVID-19. And so, shame and mistrust. Those are two things that help this virus spread.
But one thing that is in particular to this community … especially in the Polynesian Pacific Islanders is … how they think of illness as a result of some type of transgression within a relationship, either with one's family, one's faith, one's community. And so oftentimes when illness comes about, there’s a thought of someone not being mindful of those relationships.”