HONOLULU(KHON2) — Nearly two dozen Native Hawaiian leaders gathered outside the state Capitol on Thursday to share a unified message, urging Hawaiians to take action against COVID before it’s too late.
“We’re all here in unison to urge our communities to help us curb the spread of COVID-19,” Mehanaokala Hind of the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement said.
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“The consequences of this pandemic are devastating, and we must take action now to protect our future,” said Dr. Diane Paloma, Lunalilo Trust and Home CEO. “It is my sincere hope that the generations that come after us know that we did everything possible to remain standing as a lahui.”
The leaders said they’ve watched as Hawaiians continue to suffer due to the coronavirus.
According to the Department of Health, Hawaiians make up 27% of all COVID cases in the state, yet they account for only 21% of the population. Hawaiians are the third highest race being hospitalized, accounting for 507 out of the 2,432 total — and they account for 75 of the 551 deaths linked to COVID.
Ka Waihona O Ka Na’auao Public Charter School Principal Dr. Kalehua Krug is hoping people will make informed decisions and not be ruled by fear.
“Our community is in a crossroads: One road is guided by negative perspectives and experiences and the distrust of science and scientists and government and big pharmaceutical companies,” Krug explained. “The other road is guided by healthcare and current mainstream medical information both roads have valid concerns.”
He warned about using the internet at the main source of information and urged people to trust medical professionals.
“Please do not breed distrust for our healthcare workers and the medical field in our communities. Don’t place doubt in the hearts and minds of our children for those that are ready to save our lives,” Krug said.
Krug said we need to use all the tools we have to fight this. That means getting a shot.
“Sometimes you need foreign medicines to heal foreign viruses,” Krug said.
He added that fear and indecision will only hurt more people.
“As we hesitate, in-action becomes our action, and for some, in-action has a grave outcome.”
He said vaccines are the best way to battle through symptoms of COVID and long-term effects of this virus for people of all ages.
“I acknowledge the truth that I am fearful of what is to come both from the vaccine and the virus, but the statistical percentages of mainstream survivability and long-term effects may not hold true for our lahui,” Krug said.
Ultimately, he said, he believes the vaccine is the safest route and the best option to help Hawaiians survive this pandemic.
Sen. Jarrett Keohokalole said he does not want history to repeat itself.
“During the Queen’s lifetime, the Native Hawaiian population went from 140,000 individuals — from the time of her birth in 1848 — to 40,000 individuals at the time of her death in 1917, a 70% drop,” Keohokalole explained. “We do not need to be told what to do. Our history should show us that.”
“In 1859, Queens Hospital was created for our lahui,” Paloma said. “Even after the hospital was established, Queen Emma still suffered tremendous loss losing eight of her immediate and extended family members in about a year’s time.”
“Our elite had to make these strong and difficult decisions and did so with the intent of the lahui and those who come after us,” Paloma added. “It is unfathomable of me to think of which eight of my immediate family members I am willing to lose in the next couple of years.”
Keohokalole urged the Hawaiian community to take action.
“Volunteer at events, play music, cook food at vaccination drives,” he said. “Let your ohana, neighbors and friends know that we don’t need to debate, that they can trust you with our thoughts our feelings and our concerns, so that we can let our aloha for each other guide the way.”
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Keohokalole said the plan is for the different Native Hawaiian leaders and organizations to work together, targeting the hardest hit areas at a grassroots level providing information, testing and vaccinations.