State briefs for February 26

Lawmakers consider measures to aid burial practices

HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii lawmakers are considering legislation to accommodate traditional Hawaiian burial practices through a technology aimed at replacing burial or traditional cremation.

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Supporters of water cremation promoted the alternative while members of the funeral services industry said the technique could bring higher costs.

Traditional Hawaiian burial practices involve the preservation and protection of bones in the belief that they carry a person’s spiritual essence.

Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, head of the Oahu Island Burial Council, said bodies were traditionally placed in underground ovens to remove flesh from bones, which were then wrapped and hidden to preserve the bodies’ spirits.

Democratic state Sen. Jarrett Keohokalole introduced two bills that would allow the use of water cremation, which is also known as alkaline hydrolysis.

Kawehi Correa, president of Aloha Mortuary, said the technique using pressurized water chambers leaves 90% of bones “pristinely white.” Water cremation uses an eighth of the energy of flame-based cremation, resulting in more than a 75% reduction in the carbon footprint of traditional techniques.

Keohokalole said the process serves as a replacement for practices that are no longer feasible for Hawaiian families.

Vaccine clinics target Alaska’s Pacific Islanders

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The Anchorage Health Department has arranged two mobile clinics to provide coronavirus vaccinations specifically targeting members of Alaska’s community of Pacific Islanders.

The clinics scheduled on Tuesday and Thursday this week were the first targeting a specific community since the pandemic began, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

The focused clinic strategy was used by the department during past illness outbreaks.

There were about 160 appointments available for the two clinics, officials said.

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“In order to make sure some of these other groups get access, we basically created some private clinics,” said Christy Lawton, Anchorage’s public health division manager. “We’ll still serve people who are eligible but we’re not getting the message out the same way.”

The clinics were advertised via word of mouth among Pacific Islanders rather than the usual appointment sites accessible to the public, officials said.

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