Many of us are now hearing, “I’m sorry, but you need to wear a mask to enter this store.”

This will become more and more common, along with us presenting our “virus-free clearance cards” as we try to reopen our $90 billion-plus economy.

A “New Hawaii” is thus emerging in the waning days of the coronavirus where Hawaii’s future will depend on how our leaders answer the following questions:

  • When is it safe to return to work again? Employees are now wondering if it is safe to return to their workplace, e.g. were any co-workers exposed to the virus? Did any of them test positive, and have the premises been disinfected?
  • When is it safe to vacation in Hawaii again? Visitors want to know if it’s safe to vacation here and will be asking which airlines fly to Hawaii with virus-free passengers and cabins? Which hotels and car rentals are safe? Do I need a “virus-free clearance card” to board a plane to Hawaii?

The answers to these questions are the keys to the reopening of our economy. For example, it is imperative we create some kind of “COVID-19 Clearance Card” so our employees can return to work, and our tourists can return to our beaches.

Waikiki Beach pre-COVID-19. When the virus finally eases, Hawaii should reward frontline workers with free trips to the islands. Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat

Employers should be responsible to certify and assure the Hawaii Department of Health that all employees have been tested and are free of the coronavirus. If cleared, companies can be issued “PASSED” signs much like the DOH does for restaurants which pass the health inspection.

After these certifications are in place Hawaii’s visitor industry will begin to open. The Hawaii Tourism Authority has a great opportunity to kickstart our economy by implementing “Hawaii Salutes America’s Doctors, Nurses and Healthcare Workers” with free “mahalo trips” to Hawaii.

Hawaiian Airlines would be among the first key supporters of this program along with Hawaii’s major hotels offering free or extremely discounted rooms.

‘Aloha Masks’

Following a benchmark set by the lieutenant governor, whenever Hawaii reaches more than 500 coronavirus cases, wearing a mask in public will be mandatory. Research shows large numbers of asymptomatic carriers (20% to 40%) are naively infecting others, and so-called “cured patients” are also still able to infect others up to eight days after declared in “good health.”

Innovative entrepreneurs in Hawaii are helping us keep safe by developing “Aloha Masks” and will soon come out with “Aloha Gloves” that protect the wearer with fingertips containing antiseptic protections.

But home test kits for COVID-19 will be the biggest advance in stemming the virus and will be available for home use with results available within minutes. Testing will be universal and the new gold standard for our safety in Hawaii.

Retailers may also want to require a type of temperature-check on customers entering their premises to protect their employees — much like we did with metal detectors after 9/11.

To get us through this transition from lockdown to a functioning economy, it’s important that the Legislature reconvenes to consider the following:

  • freezing all salary and pay increases;
  • establishing testing guidelines and procedures for the creation of “COVID-19 Clearance Cards” for residents and visitors alike;
  • mandating the wearing of masks while in public;
  • creating a travel fund for “Hawaii Salutes America’s Doctors, Nurses and Healthcare Workers” with free travel to Hawaii in partnership with HTA and Hawaii’s hotels to kickstart our economy;
  • refusing to increase (even by a little) the cost of living, housing, food or other basics;
  • promoting construction jobs by concentrating on University of Hawaii and Department of Education backlogs of repairs and maintenance (now more than $1.5 billion) and getting capital improvement projects out the door ASAP; and
  • ignoring any proposed new or increase in taxes, fees, licenses or other issues that raise the cost of doing business in Hawaii.

Lastly, and as hard as it may sound, let’s practice a new form of “kapu aloha” that doesn’t allow hugging, kissing, or even touching each other.

If we do — there will be more of us around when we get Hawaii’s economy open and all of us back to work again.

Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Column lengths should be no more than 800 words and we need a current photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to The opinions and information expressed in Community Voices are solely those of the authors and not Civil Beat.