This month, Hawai‘i Public Health Institute is recognizing Black History Month, and celebrating the legacies of many African Americans who have shaped public health in the U.S. You can click on the banner below to read about 10 African Americans Who Have Shaped Public Health. As we honor those who have created equitable change in public health, we also acknowledge the work that must still be done. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed structural and systemic inequalities that are interdependent to health including access to employment, health care, housing, education, and access to healthy foods; race and ethnicity are considered risk markers for health. We can all do our part in helping to promote fair access to health by responding to Black and African American health concerns and supporting just and equitable policy change.

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PAST WEBINAR: COVID-19 VACCINE UPDATE

We kicked off February with our first webinar of 2021 and want to thank all of you who were in attendance. We had the privilege of hearing from CJ Johnson and Jon Shear with updates on the two FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines and their insights on the Hawaiʻi State Department of Health’s plan on COVID-19 vaccine distribution and allocation. CJ Johnson shared, “The primary goal of vaccination campaigns is “herd immunity.” Herd immunity is when the entire community is immune to an infectious disease, either from previous infection or vaccination,” along with insights from Jon Shear on how the state plans to achieve this. If you missed this past week’s webinar, you can watch it here! Save the date for our next webinar on March 3, with more details to be announced in our next newsletter.

2021 LEGISLATIVE SESSION: COVID-19 BILLS

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The 2021 legislative session officially began in January, with the introduction of  thousands of bills since then. Several bills seek to address issues related to COVID-19, including appropriations, public health preparedness, and public health initiatives like mandatory mask wearing. HIPHI has compiled a list in our 2021 bill tracker under the “COVID-19” tab. 

Your voice matters! Through public hearings you can help to shape health policy and pandemic response in Hawaiʻi. We all play a role ensuring that our government’s response to the pandemic protects public health, especially our most vulnerable populations. If you’ve never participated in Hawaii’s legislative process, the Public Access Room is a go-to resource that can help you understand and participate in the legislative process. Even if you’re a seasoned advocate, their staff are available to help you navigate Hawaii’s first all-online session. They also have a YouTube channel to walk you through the process, including how to submit written testimony or offer remote oral testimony. You may contact the Public Access Room for assistance at (808) 587-0478 or email par@capitol.hawaii.gov.

COUNTY UPDATES

Kaua‘i County

The County of Kaua‘i Office of Economic Development (OED) is inviting the public to share feedback on the proposals for the Innovation Grants. The grant proposals are new programs or projects that solve local problems in Kaua‘i County, with some grants supporting COVID-19 response. You may review and rate the importance of funding for each proposal by February 22, 2021; your feedback will be taken into consideration during the selection process. 

Maui County

Maui County will receive $40 million from federal funds to help residents with rent and utility bills. Households earning up to 80% of area median income that have lost income due to COVID-19 and are at risk of homelessness, qualify for assistance. Nonprofit agencies will administer the distribution of funds. The initial release of $15 million is expected within a few weeks. 

City and County of Honolulu

In December, the City and County of Honolulu provided $500 cards to residents financially affected by COVID-19 for food and groceries. Recipients of the Honolulu City Immediate Response Incentive Mastercard (City Card) have an extended deadline to use the funds. The deadline to use your balance is now February 15, 2021. To activate your card or find your balance click here!

Kūpuna Power has a new space at Windward Mall giving seniors access to computers for resources such as Medicaid, Medicare, Long Term Care Insurance, Elder Abuse, Healthy Living, and Local Resources. Kūpuna Power is open daily from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. to assist seniors,  with local resources available to meet their needs.

Hawai‘i County

Hamakua-Kohala Health is now providing COVID-19 vaccinations for patients 75 and older. Please call the Hamakua clinic in Honokaʻa at (808) 775-7204 and the Kohala clinic in Kapaʻau at (808) 889-6236 to schedule an appointment. 

COVID-19 Newsletter

STATEWIDE NEWS 

Hawaii Utility Bill Assistance Program

The Hawai‘i Utility Bill Assistance Program is a statewide initiative to help Hawaiʻi residents affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Individuals or families struggling to pay their electric, water, sewer and gas bills can learn who  qualifies and how the process works on Hawaiʻi Utility Bill Assistance Program FAQ’s. As of today, applications are being accepted!

CVS Expands as a Vaccine Provider

Starting on February 11, CVS Health announced Longs Drugs in Hilo, Honolulu, Kahului, Kaneohe and Kapaʻa will begin offering COVID-19 vaccines to eligible populations. Patients must make an appointment in advance on CVS online or by calling CVS customer service at (800) 746-7287. Appointments will become available for booking as early as February 9. 

Kū Makani: Free and Anonymous Crisis Counseling 

Kū Makani: The Hawai‘i Resiliency Project is an initiative to support individuals and families affected by COVID-19 with resources for support. You can call (808) 832-3100 to be connected with a crisis counselor!

COVID-19 newsletter

HTA Study on COVID-19 and Visitors in Hawai‘i 

The Hawai‘i Tourism Authority (HTA) surveyed visitors from the U.S. mainland who visited Hawai‘i to assess their experience with Hawaii’s Safe Travels program. Despite challenges for some in the pre-testing process, 85% of visitors rated their trip as “excellent.” Read more of the Visitor COVID-19 Study to learn about how likely it is for visitors to return, get the vaccine and more!

PUBLIC HEALTH TIP OF THE WEEK

COVID-19 newsletter

We are facing a pandemic in a digital world where information is rapidly spreading, but not all of that information may be true. This week’s public health tip is to make informed decisions based on facts. We all can do our part in spreading accurate information about COVID-19 and stopping the spread of disinformation! Both FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines use mRNA; please consider sharing the above facts on mRNA vaccines with interested friends. 

MONTHLY VIRTUAL SUPPORT GROUP FOR CAREGIVERS 

The Caregiver Foundation is hosting a free online caregiver support group every third Tuesday of the month from 4-5 p.m. This month, the topic is COVID-19: What We Know Now That We Didn’t Know a Year Ago featuring guest speaker Dr. Randall Suzuka. Please register to join the next support group session on February 16 at 4 p.m.

PU’UHONUA O WAIANAE IS ASKING FOR YOUR VOTE!

Puʻuhonua O Waiʻanae is a community of 250 people living houseless on the leeward side of Oʻahu. Puʻuhonua O Waiʻanae is one of the top ten finalists for Mobile Beacon’s nationwide Community Grant Contest. The grant recipient is chosen by the organization with the most public votes and will be given 10 laptops, 10 hotspots and $10,000. Watch Puʻuhonua O Waiʻanae’s entry video, which explains how the grant would provide houseless children with laptops to help with their distance learning during the pandemic. To vote, visit Mobile Beacon and at the bottom of the page, click the orange button “Vote for this Mobile Beacon Moment”.

QUESTIONS ABOUT THE VACCINE?

COVID-19 Newsletter

The Hawaiʻi State Department of Health has a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document that has been translated to 17 languages. Hawaii’s vaccination plan provides information on the state’s vaccine timeline. We encourage you to share these resources with your partners working closely with communities!

DO YOU HAVE RESOURCES OR INFORMATION ON COVID-19 TO SHARE?

If you have any resources or updates we should include in our next email or on our website, feel free to contact us at covidresponse@hiphi.org