Hawaii health department creates new contact tracing team

HONOLULU — The Hawaii Department of Health has created a contact tracing team that will perform their duties in languages such as Samoan, Marshallese and Chuukese.

The new Pacific Islanders Outreach Team will comprise of 10 people who, along with their contact-tracing duties, will host online educational seminars about the coronavirus in a viewer’s native language, KITV-TV reported Tuesday.

Pacific Islanders make up about 4% of the state’s population but have about 28% of the state’s coronavirus infections, according to state Department of Health data updated last Friday.

“I believe the more education the Pacific Islanders can get in a language and culture that speaks to them will help take down that number,” said Chantelle Matagi, the leader of the outreach team.

Matagi said that some people learn about the coronavirus for the first time during presentations in their native language.

“It’s taken away a lot of the fear, the misinformation, it’s addressed that,” Matagi said. “It’s given them direct information on what to do if you’re positive, what to do if you’re a contact of someone who’s tested positive.”

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

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