Kauai almost has it. Hawaii Island can too. In fact, all the outer islands, then Oahu, can do this. New Zealand is there — together we can eradicate the virus.

I know you’re bored or scared. My neighbors are spinning some wild conspiracy theories. But if we make a plan and then follow it together, we can keep the death rate down and reopen Hawaii. At least for ourselves.

Our virus infection numbers are very low, and we have less than 2 million people. New Zealand has 5 million. We can take advantage of our island chain’s isolation and beat this virus. We don’t need to be forced, we can just use the math, traditional public health methods and team work and do this.

We just need to follow the five basic public health techniques that have been used forever: testing, contact tracing, isolation, social distancing, and treatment.

Some of these things, we can all do on our own. Some require our leaders to get coordinated. But we elected and appointed them, so we can push them to do the right thing (e.g., Governor Ige).

Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister of New Zealand, has managed to keep her nation relatively COVID-19 free. Can Hawaii follow her lead? Screenshot

While many are holding out hope for an early vaccine, that timeline could be long or unpredictable. Start by pouring more money into making testing much more available, including antibody testing to see if some of our population has become immune from an asymptomatic case. Dr. Sarah Park, our head epidemiologist, needs to open up testing beyond just those with symptoms.

Next is aggressive contact tracing. Pour public and private funding into this. Hire or reassign existing state workers to this. It’s key to eradication. Bruce Anderson at the Department of Health needs to prioritize this. Most U.S. states have such high infection rates, that this is no longer an option for them. We can do this.

Corona Corps

We could use some of the new apps being developed or create a Corona Corps, as has been proposed, to get young people hired and doing the tracing with traditional interviewing and phone calls. Or more likely a combination. This will target new infections quickly and completely, as well as showing us how the clusters of infection happen with this particular virus.

That information can help us choose how we reopen the state. Lt. Gov. Josh Green would be great at coordinating this effort.

Let’s define isolation and social distancing better for our islands. If you’re sick or exposed, you stay completely home. Even isolate within your family. Others go out and get stuff for you. Everyone else stays home as much as possible.

Essential grocery shopping is one person going out every two weeks for their family, parents, and elderly neighbors. It is not going to your local grocery shop three times per week to chat in the parking lot with your friends. Sending your teenagers on a dump run is not an opportunity for them to coordinate meeting up with their friends to hang out with each other.

Many people have to go to work. Let’s give all of our essential workers effective PPE. It should be a right. Don’t skimp.

I know we have to prioritize our hospital workers and first responders, because they are treating COVID-19 patients, but the mask shortages impact the farmworkers in my neighborhood. Not wearing N-95 masks to spray agricultural chemicals is going to lead to additional, longer term health problems.

Grocery store checkers deserve masks, plexiglass shields, and gloves too. Labor department workers processing your unemployment checks should be masked up and social distanced as well.

I think we can all agree that it’s worth holding these lines harder now to get out of them sooner. All of these COVID-19 associated costs and restrictions will be paid back if we can get our economy going again quickly and safely, but more longterm. Otherwise, we will prolong our pain.

This virus is a forced exercise in working together, for each other. We can do this.

Our doctors and hospitals are ready to treat and are following the constantly evolving treatment guidelines worldwide. There is one area we can improve, which is those that test positive are better monitored, so that if they start to crash fast, they can be quickly hospitalized and cared for at a more intensive level. The rise in at-home deaths could be preventable.

This virus is a forced exercise in working together, for each other.

One approach to reopening is based on the math of creating bigger circles that can go back on lockdown if need be. If we focus on keeping mokus (land divisions) as virus-free circles, just like we’ve been keeping our households isolated, this will work. If we get our moku down to virus-free for two weeks, then we slowly open up within the moku. We will need to thermal scan or antibody test as people pass from one moku to another.

If a virus case pops up again, we close down that moku until it’s virus-free for two weeks again. In this manner, we can begin some of normal life again.

Bringing in people from the outside will again depend on some stringent testing rules, followed by quarantine before or after. But that could allow us to slowly open up to safe prosperity through the tourism economy.

In the meantime, we need to strengthen our local ohanas, rural economies, and food systems. Buy local. Plant food. But we can beat this virus with traditional public health methods — together.

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