SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Utah Governor Gary Herbert said he is concerned about the surge of coronavirus infections impacting the state’s communities of color.

During the state’s weekly briefing on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Herbert invited Jake Fitisemanu to share how the pandemic is disproportionately affecting the state’s Pacific Islander community.

Fitisemanu is a West Valley City council member, Chair of the Utah Pacific Islander Health Coalition, and member of Multicultural Subcommittee.

Fitisemanu said for that last two months, native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in the State of Utah have had the highest infection rate for COVID-19 and the highest hospitalization rate for COVID-19 in Salt Lake County and the second highest infection rate and second highest hospitalization rate in the state overall.

Data from the Utah Department of Health shows the Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander community makes up just 1.6% of the the state’s population, but it accounts for nearly 4% of the state’s cases since the beginning of the pandemic.

“The data that is shared here from this podium everyday confirms that COVID-19 isn’t impacting all groups with the same level of severity,” said Fitisemanu.

According to Fitisemanu, many factors contribute to this disparity including a high prevalence of underlying health conditions, housing and family dynamics that increase the likelihood of spread, and increased likelihood of exposure due to employment in essential industries, and customs that don’t align with social distancing.

Fitisemanu called on all friends and neighbors throughout the state to help stop the spread of the virus by emphasizing the need to physical distancing, wearing face coverings, practicing good hygiene.

“It’s not easy, but if we work together we can do more to protect our families, preserve our cultures and prevent COVID-19 from taking more from us than it already has,” said Fitisemanu.

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