An A.S.L. interpreter who gave coronavirus updates dies of Covid-19 complications.


Credit…via Sakal family

Patty Sakal, an American Sign Language interpreter who translated updates about the coronavirus for deaf Hawaiians, died on Friday of complications related to Covid-19. She was 62.

Ms. Sakal, who lived in Honolulu, died at Alvarado Hospital Medical Center in San Diego, where she had gone last month to visit one of her daughters, according to Ms. Sakal’s sister, Lorna Mouton Riff.

Ms. Sakal, who worked as an A.S.L. interpreter for nearly four decades in a variety of settings, had become a mainstay in coronavirus news briefings in Hawaii, working with both the former mayor of Honolulu, Kirk Caldwell, and the state’s governor, David Y. Ige, to interpret news for the deaf community.

In a statement, Isle Interpret, an organization of interpreters to which Ms. Sakal belonged, called Ms. Sakal “Hawaii interpreter ‘royalty.’”

This was in part because Ms. Sakal understood Hawaiian Sign Language, a version of American Sign Language developed by deaf elders to which she had been exposed while growing up.

“She was highly utilized and highly desired by the deaf in the community because they could understand her so well and she could understand them,” said Tamar Lani, the president of Isle Interpret.

In an interview with Hawaii News Now, Mr. Caldwell, whose second term as mayor of Honolulu ended this month, praised Ms. Sakal for “truly putting herself on the frontline.”

“Here it was, a pandemic and it was not safe to go, yet she went out and she helped do a job that was critical to people who needed this information,” Mr. Caldwell told Hawaii News Now. Neither he nor Mr. Ige could immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday.


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