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Micronesia faces first COVID-19 outbreak, worrying families in Hawaii

<i>KITV</i><br/>Micronesia faces first COVID-19 outbreak
Micronesia faces first COVID-19 outbreak

By Kristen Consillio

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    HAWAII (KITV) — Micronesians and other Pacific Islanders were hit especially hard by COVID-19 in Hawaii.

And now many of them are worried about their families back home in the Federated States of Micronesia.

“You know we’ve seen how influenza and all those other diseases took out a really big chunk of our population in history,” said Josie Howard, CEO of We are Oceania.

Two islands — including the capital city — are reporting four deaths and almost 3,000 coronavirus cases. Up until last week, the Pacific island nation managed to keep out the virus, closing its borders to outsiders and maintaining strict quarantine rules.

The country had planned to reopen on Aug. 1.

“Like our hospital, medication, medicine we don’t have like those back home,” said Andrew Tarauo, whose grandparents and extended family live in Micronesia. “Yeah it’s scary cause it’s first time like in the world. If you don’t have help, then we can die.”

Howard, head of a charity that helps the 20,000 Micronesians living in the islands, saw firsthand how those communities — which face higher rates of chronic diseases — were devastated by COVID-19 infections here.

“We had almost hit 40% of the positive cases so just using that model and looking at how this might spread back home and how quickly it could spread and how impactful it could be on the people, I think that’s what’s made me really worried,” she said.

She’s hoping to send masks and other supplies to Micronesia. And most importantly, help educate them on how to survive COVID-19.

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