Marshallese struggle with Covid in US

10:43 am on 3 August 2020

At least 70 Marshallese have died in the United States mainland from Covid-19, according to a report complied by the Marshall Islands Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The nearly 2,500 positive cases among the Marshallese community living in the US is likely close to 10 percent of the Marshallese living in the US.

The Northwest Arkansas region accounts for over half of these deaths, with 38 people reported to have died in that part of the US over the past several months, according to the ministry's mid-July report. But the ministry's death total for Northwest Arkansas was updated to 47 Friday by poultry worker advocate Albious Latior, who has led community fundraising efforts to stave off evictions of Marshallese ill with Covid-19 who have been unable to work for weeks at a time and were unable to pay their rent.

"Sixty percent of our county's Covid-19-related deaths are from the Marshallese community," said Latior. "Our community needs help. But first we Marshallese need to help ourselves."

Albious Latior

Albious Latior Photo: Facebook

According to the government's report, the location with the next highest number of deaths of Marshallese from Covid-19 is Dubuque, Iowa with eight, followed by Waterloo, Iowa with five.

Northwest Arkansas and the two Iowa cities have meat processing facilities that employ many hundreds of Marshall Islanders and have been hard-hit by the coronavirus.

Washington state reports seven deaths and in Denver, Colorado three Marshallese died from Covid-19.

Nobody has died to date from Covid-19 in Hawaii, according to the statistics in the ministry's report.

A total of 2,492 Marshallese in the US mainland and Hawaii have been infected by Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic earlier this year up to mid-July.

Of this number, 1,536 are said to have recovered. Another 861 were reported in quarantine or isolation.

The Marshallese community distribute care packages and masks

The Marshallese community distribute care packages and masks Photo: Arkansas Coalition of Marshallese

The 2010 US Census reported 22,434 Marshallese in the US. That number was recently updated by US government estimates to about 30,000, although many speculate that the number of islanders having migrated to the US is higher than this.

Marshallese in Northwest Arkansas have experienced the brunt of the infection rate as well as deaths.

Over three quarters of all Covid-19 infections in Marshallese - 77 percent or 1,916 people - are among the population in Northwest Arkansas.

In an unrelated Covid-19, the first Marshallese patient in Manila, Philippines to be positive for Covid-19 was confirmed last week. The patient is among a number of Marshallese who are undergoing medical care at Manila hospitals or were patients and are now stranded by the Marshall Islands travel ban that was instituted on 8 March.

To date, the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia and Palau remain Covid-19 free.