Pacific Islanders (PIs), an indigenous, diverse population in the USA, have endured generational burdens of Western colonization and institutional racism that placed this population at socioeconomic and health disadvantages, such as in poverty, chronic disease, and now COVID-19. However, little is known about the impact of COVID-19 on this historically disadvantaged population. This study assessed the extent US PIs have been adversely affected by COVID-19 across the 50 states.
Using state-level national data as of September 9th, 2020, we conducted a secondary-data analysis of COVID-19 cases and deaths in PIs relative to their population representation and other racial groups, case odds ratios, and age-adjusted standard mortality ratios.
Only 46% of states reported PI cases and 36% of states reported PI deaths. Of 23 states with available data on PIs, PIs were overrepresented in COVID-19 cases and deaths relative to their population representation in 21 and 14 states, respectively. The proportion of COVID-19 cases and deaths to the PI population was highest among all racial groups in 15 and 9 states, respectively. PIs had higher odds of exposure to COVID-19 than Whites in 21 of 23 states, and higher number of observed deaths than expected in 6 of 7 states with available PI data.
Engaging PI community-based and faith-based organizations in medical and public health outreach efforts, health workforce employment and training programs, along with granular data collection and reporting, are vital to mitigate the disproportionate effects of COVID-19 on this population.