Community activist dies of COVID-19 Tuesday


SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – COVID-19 is striking hard in the Pacific Islander Community.
Well-known local activist Margarita Satini passed away due to complications from the virus Tuesday morning. Her death came eight days after announcing she had the virus on Facebook.

You may remember Margarita Satini talking with our own Emily Clark about the importance of representation in the Census last May. Or the countless hours she put in aiding her community.

Margarita Satini

Always involved in a community project, Satini turned her efforts towards COVID-19 because of the harm it is causing the Pacific Islander Community.

“Our community unfortunately still has higher than average infection rates and hospitalizations,” says Jake Fitisemanu Jr. of the Utah Pacific Islander Health Coalition.

He goes on saying, “Margarita is probably most known for her civic engagement work; for her activism; and advocacy in terms of equity and social justice; and so her movement into COVID response might have caught some people by surprise, but in her world and in her world view, in looking at health equity and looking at all of those different social determinants of health, fighting COVID kind of fit right into her portfolio.”

State data shows us 27 people of Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander ethnicity died of COVID-19, and 365 people were hospitalized by the virus.

Margarita Satini

“Her loss leaves a really big hole in the heart of our community,” says Fitisemanu Jr.

He says Satini just acquired a Communities of COVID Partnership grant to help the Pacific Islander Community get more coronavirus testing.

“It is a collaborative effort to ensure that access is being provided for testing, for wrap-around services, for supportive services, and resources for families and individuals that are being impacted by COVID,” says Fitisemanu Jr. “I think (Marga)Rita’s passing, with complications of COVID, is just another example that continues to raise awareness of the urgency,” he says.

Other community activists are heartbroken too.

Darlene McDonald and Margarita Satini

“So seeing this loss, and I know that Margarita was working so hard to educate the Pacific Islander Community regarding COVID-19 and the dangers of it,” says Community Activist Darlene McDonald. “There are going to be too many families that is going to have an empty chair, and unfortunately, Margarita’s family is going to be one of them.”

Satini leaves behind a husband, four children, and four grandchildren.

Governor Gary Herbert issued this statement late Tuesday night:

I was deeply saddened to hear that Margarita Satini died today from COVID-19 complications. She was a passionate advocate for her community. To say she was dedicated is an understatement — she gave and gave with everything she had. Our prayers and thoughts are with all who mourn her loss tonight.

Utah’s racial and ethnic minority legislators Sen. Luz Escamilla, Sen. Jani Iwamoto, Rep. Angela Romero, Rep. Karen Kwan, Rep. Mark Wheatley, and Rep. Sandra Hollins issued the following statement:

“Today, Utah tragically lost a community powerhouse and beloved mentor to COVID-19. Margarita Satini was a force for her Pacific Islander community, and for underrepresented, under-served communities across our state. During the past many months, Margarita led as a community health worker to steer the COVID Community Partnership to educate and care for marginalized communities disproportionately hurt by the pandemic.

Losing Margarita should remind us all, again, how real and dangerous this pandemic is. Our hospitals are filled and our communities are being affected more than ever. The reckless and selfish attitudes of some who are choosing not to take precautions means that others are suffering and dying. How many more good people will we have to lose before all Utahns take this public health crisis seriously?

Margarita was a mother, a wife, a friend, and a leader for many. We express our heartfelt condolences to Margarita’s family and loved ones.

A vigil is planned for Satini at the Utah State Capitol at 6 p.m. Wednesday night. Those wanting to come are asked to wear a mask and follow physical distancing guidelines.

A GoFundMe Memorial account is set up to help the family at this time.

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