Surrounded by Pacific waters, 2,500 miles away from the continental US, Hawaii is in a novel place to climate COVID-19. On the one hand, the state’s economic system has nosedived with the tourism trade, leaving many residents unemployed. On the opposite, Hawaii is doing higher than virtually some other state at curbing the unfold of the coronavirus.
Regardless of having one of many oldest populations within the nation, Hawaii has the bottom variety of complete COVID-19 deaths per capita out of any state, with 22 deaths for each 100,000 individuals. Previously seven days it’s additionally had the bottom price of recent COVID-19 circumstances within the nation. Balmy temperatures that enable for extra time outdoors, the place transmission is much less doubtless, have helped, says Kelley Withy, a professor of household drugs on the John A. Burns College of Medication in Hawaii and director of the Hawai’i/Pacific Basin Space Well being Training Training Middle. However an important a part of the state’s success is that residents are extremely compliant with COVID-19 precautions: 94 % constantly put on masks, and solely 6 % put on them incorrectly.
“It’s a really collaborative, family-oriented tradition. We need to defend these locally,” Withy says. “We’ve a number of respect for our elders, or our kupuna, as we name them. And other people acknowledge that we’re doing this for them.”
But when circumstances surge in a distant a part of the state, like most of Maui and Kauai counties, the medical system may crumble on account of a scarcity of medical doctors. Hawaii employs 1,008 fewer physicians than any equally sized and populated space within the continental US. The deficit has existed ever since Withy and her colleagues began monitoring it in 2010, however it’s widened by about 200 consultants previously 12 months. A part of the reason being that Hawaii has the best price of residing of any state however has among the many lowers medical doctors’ salaries. And since many Hawaiian physicians are older—21 % are 65 or above—dozens have retired or diminished the variety of hours they work throughout the pandemic. With the plummeting tourism trade, the state additionally doesn’t have sufficient sources to arrange emergency replacements. “We’d must put a big funding into medical coaching to coach sufficient [medical staff to handle a COVID-19 outbreak],” Withy says. “And proper now, we’re broke.”
One other issue the state is worried about is racial inequities in COVID-19 burden, Withy says. Pacific Islanders make up solely four % of the state’s inhabitants however account for 25 % of all circumstances and 31 % of hospitalizations. This disparity just isn’t restricted to Hawaii: Pacific Islanders throughout the nation have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. The group has lengthy confronted well being disparities on account of components similar to racism and colonialism which have led to excessive ranges of poverty and unemployment. Crowded situations in multigenerational properties might also put them at elevated threat of an infection.
With total charges of COVID-19 nonetheless low, Hawaii hopes to draw extra vacationers to its shores. The state’s economic system is reliant on tourism, and the unemployment price reached 34 % in early Might. However contact tracers within the state have solely attributed a small proportion of circumstances to guests—and the federal government is hoping to draw extra guests via its Protected Travels program, which features a mixture of testing and quarantine. “We would like vacationers again,” Withy says. “However we wish wholesome vacationers.”