UPDATE 12.29.2020: Hawai’i has suffered a 38% increase in COVID19 hospitalizations over the past month as new case counts climbed over the holiday season.
Hawaii’s Lt Governor Josh Green is considered a competent medical professional. He’s a nice guy and likely decent country doctor. However, if you are in trouble, I wouldn’t send you to him. He ignores science and national experts. Help is on the way. U.S. Senator Brian Schatz announced yesterday:
Hawai‘i will receive at least $1.7 billion in estimated funding from the new $900 billion COVID-19 relief package announced today. The bipartisan deal includes funding for unemployment assistance, and aid for small businesses, schools, vaccine distribution, hospitals, and health care workers. While this isn’t enough, and we still have more work to do, it should provide some immediate help.
The Lt Governor is a practicing emergency room doctor. We see doctors and nurses in tears across the nation begging Americans to comply with COVID19 restrictions. Josh Green disregards the prudent recommendations of his colleagues at the CDC and other national medical institutions. While they plead with Americans not to fly and stay home at this time, Dr. Green says, “Get on a plane! Come to our tropical paradise. We hardly have any infection here.”
Taiwan just snapped their world-leading 253-day streak of no COVID19 infections, a point of pride for the island’s 23 million people, after identifying the first locally-transmitted coronavirus case since April from a cargo pilot who flew routes abroad, including to the United States.
Pilots arriving in Taiwan currently undergo only three days of quarantine after each overseas trip, compared with the stricter two-week requirement for other international travellers. Authorities now plan to tighten those rules. Hawai’i has no restriction on airline staff.
Dr. Green wants the “green.” Each passenger is worth $1,643.84 to the state machine, which is certainly underpriced. Damn the locals. There were twenty thousand (20,000) arrivals Saturday. Green admits at minimum 1/1000 — 20 people — slipped through health security protocols. Actual studies suggest 8/1000 to be more accurate. Some 80 positive-COVID19 people touch down each day. The doctor puts locals at tremendous risk.
“Residents are largely hesitant to reopen Hawaii to outside tourism and promoting/encouraging travel to the state at this time.”
Chris Kam, OmniTrak president and CEO
Hawai’i residents see tourism as contributing to the increased health risks of the COVID19 pandemic. They don’t trust tourism reopening plans and don’t believe quarantine enforcement has been effective.
In a recent opinion study, 43% of all respondents reported they agreed with the statement, “People from outside the state of Hawai’i should not be visiting Hawai’i at this time.”
Lt Governor Green claims, “Travel has not had an impact on our case counts of any consequence; the numbers have been small. The state of Hawaii has the lowest COVID rate in the country by a big margin, and we opened up our economy.”
Paul Brewbaker, principal of TZ Economics, backs government officials, “Those that think Hawaii is better off without tourism are clearly not looking at the economic realities around them. They could not possibly understand the economic catastrophe that has befallen Hawaii in 2020, which makes it clear that Hawaii is not better off with less tourism. It’s the exact opposite: 100,000 people out of work is a self-evident indication of how bad it is not to have tourism.”
More federal help is coming, but we haven’t opened tourism. O’ahu has the state’s largest economy. We’re shuttered at 25% levels. Tourism pre-pandemic brought 30K a day. We’ve been operating at best a quarter this number for months. Since Thanksgiving, arrivals have been climbing — along with infections.
Government encourages the tourism economy at a time the virus is exploding across the mainland and world. Timing is everything and Dr. Green’s timing stay broke. How long before Britain’s latest threat comes through Daniel K. Inouye International?
Scientists disapprove of this approach. Even Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell disagrees. He currently holds the local economy hostage at Tier 2 (of four), and warns we may be forced to drop to more restrictive protocols and business limits if the “explosive trend in COVID19 outbreak continues.”
About 300 residents have died from the disease. “Not bad,” says Dr. Green. Tell that to the 300 families!
New Zealand, led by a phenomenal woman, Jacinda Ardern, manages over four-times the population of Hawai’i. She disagrees. They’ve suffered about 25 deaths compared to our nearly 300 during the same crisis. She’s not a medical doctor. She’s a Mormon and policy professional. She puts families first and knows how to balance economic and public health challenges.
Relatively, Hawai’i has about fifty (50) times the death rate of New Zealand.
Trained policy leaders “prepare for the worst and hope for the best.” They certainly would not continue the irresponsible COVID19 policies furthered by Governor Ige and Lt Governor Josh Green. Both men put wealth before health. They see Hawai’i simply as a luxury resort opportunity. Locals are pawns to service tourists and visitors. And, in this corporate sense, locals are expendable.
To be fair, all states and nations are between a Rock & Hard Place. Not easy answers. For Hawai’i, the best approach is to raise prices on visitors. Remember the laws of supply and demand. Normally, 30,000 arriving passengers equates to about $500,000,000 per day or $18 billion annually. Double prices and accept half the tourists. Test after arrival and demand brief quarantine of all passengers. Charge a COVID19 tax and ensure everyone remains safe.
PM Ardern and New Zealand demonstrated a path for competent and wise management in this crisis. By putting their people first, they were able to squashed the virus. In their safe community bubble, they then reenergized their economy. By only allowing outsiders to enter their bubble with confirmed negative tests, they returned to a more normal, pre-pandemic lifestyle.
To accomplish this goal, PM Arden successfully convinced her people to be disciplined, cooperative and use common sense. Hawai’i politicians gamble with human lives.
The Spread of COVID19 on Kaua’i
Experts and political leaders on Kaua’i disagree with Lt Governor Green’s approach as well. The smaller island of Kaua’i hosts about 72,000 residents. O’ahu is home to about a million. It’s difficult to track who, when and where people become infected and how it spreads to others. On Kaua’i, people know each other and have better awareness of what goes on. Kauai had negligible community spread before the state launched Safe Travels Hawai’i, the pre-arrival testing program.
Safe Travels allows arriving guests to by-pass quarantine if they tested for COVID19 up to 72-hours prior to departure. Tests are highly unreliable and disease incubation periods far exceed the testing window. Combined, this ensures a policy and public health disaster.
Kauai went from having no infections to at least 84 new cases in seven weeks.
Due to strict measures during the first wave of outbreak, Kaua’i residents quashed the virus. Safe Travels allowed it back in.
Caleb Jones wrote, Kauai went from having no infections to at least 84 new cases in seven weeks. The surge seeded community transmission and led to the island’s first — and so far only — COVID-19 death: Ron Clark, who worked for decades as a tour driver.
“The proof is in the pudding,” Lt. Gov. Josh Green said. “Hawai’i has the lowest rate of COVID in the country because of this program right now.” He’s correct Hawai’i has one of the lowest case and death rates in the U.S. We have many advantages: warm weather, open windows, much outside activity, bright sunshine, moderately humid conditions and gentle breezes.
New Zealand is also an island; not as tropical, but they showed how to do far better than have our management. Relatively, Hawai’i has about fifty (50) times the death rate. The proof is in the pudding, Dr. Green.
Every visitor to the islands is worth $1,643.84 to the state’s tourism industry.
Kaua’i officials decided the cost in lives due to easy and inexpensive vacationing in paradise, for now, is too high. Before the pandemic, Hawai’i welcomed about 30,000 tourists daily who spent nearly $18 billion the last pre-COVID19 year. Every visitor to the islands was worth $1,643.84 to the state’s tourism industry.
Seems officials underprice the experience. At this time, the visitor bureau offers “cheaper” deals to come to the islands. Should be the other way. Paradise is exceptional. Don’t undervalue Hawai’i.
Kauai’s example documents a single-test scheme is insufficient to protect the people who live here. Scientific contact tracing on island of October and November cases revealed returning residents and tourists re-introduced the virus despite pre-flight testing protocols.
Mayor Kawakami now seeks a mandatory second test for all arriving passengers after arrival, along with a short quarantine period of approximately 3-5 days while people await second result. This is what Lt. Governor Green should implement across the state archipelago.
Best advice at this time is not to travel. The vaccine brings hope for a weary nation. In a few short months, we have the possibility of returning to pre-pandemic lifestyle. Patience is the word for this holiday season. Patience will be our most important characterstic in 2021. We can find creative solutions to keep our ‘ohana floating financially. We can’t make up for the loss of a life.
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Ko’olau of Kaua’i. I am the Defiant One
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