Those of us who live here have worked hard to stay home and maintain “distance” between each other.

NOTE: pick the correct link

As a result, we have beaten down the pandemic to levels that may be the best in the nation.

It also helped that the state drastically reduced the inflow of visitors. It may, in fact, be the key reason we have been successful.

And as hard as it may be to say this, I am not looking forward to seeing the tourists return — knowing that they will surely bring disease with them.

There is now a parade of visitor industry executives, business development officials, shop keepers and inn keepers who will swear that Hawaii can reopen our islands to tourists in a “responsible” manner with adequate “safeguards” and a “message of aloha.”

Pupukea 3 Tables North Shore Aerial.
The Pupukea area on Oahu’s North Shore in 2018. There is a fear that reopening tourism too fast will lead to a new outbreak of COVID-19. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2018


They can talk about screening, and risk management, and being smart and strategic, but they are asking that people who are by definition coming from a more contaminated place to come and visit.

Tourist-Free Zones

I am frankly deeply offended that the hard work that we put in to lower and control the infection rate here is now being used by some smarmy marketing hack to advertise Hawaii as “the safest destination on the planet.”

Yeah. We made it safe. We’d like to keep it that way — at least until there is a vaccine.

“Oh, we’ll be proactive and screen people before they come,” they say.

They can take someone’s temperature while asymptomatic and three days later that person could be infecting hotels, restaurants and local workers — who will in turn infect our communities.

How are they going to guarantee that the result we have worked so hard to achieve stays that way? Who’s going to pay to ensure our safety?

So far, the message is: “You don’t understand. We must have visitors come and spend money in our establishments, pay taxes and then leave to make room for more visitors.”

One business leader even went on TV to whine that tourists were Hawaii’s “life blood.”

I recognize that the pressure to “reopen” is intense. I see legislators who would love to see the taxes flowing again; I see business owners who would love to see tourist money flowing again; I see support industries that would love to see Waikiki, Kaanapali and Kailua-Kona buzzing again.

The arguments I hear from state officials is akin to saying to a hooker, “Well, you’re free of disease now, but you gotta get back to work ’cuz there are bills to pay.”

How about saying, “You don’t need to go back to that filthy line of work. Let’s make sure you can do something else.”

Not realistic? Don’t like the analogy? Yeah, you may be offended, but think about it; it fits.

I recognize that the pressure to “reopen” is intense.

For my own peace of mind, I would love to see tourist-free zones. I live on Oahu, and if the folks in Kailua and Haleiwa want to jam up their town in search of the almighty tourist dollar, that’s their choice.

It would be refreshing, however, if I knew that Manoa, Mililani, and Waianae were tourist-free zones. Maybe Kaimuki and Waipahu, too.

I would certainly patronize restaurants that market themselves as tourist-free. You have to show proof of residence to eat there. Otherwise we spit in your food.

Nah nah, jus joke. But after this pandemic stuff, somehow I think I’m going to have much, much less aloha for “visitors” than I had before. And I’m going to stay away from Waikiki and Ala Moana and anywhere else they rear their sunburned okoles.

And for sure I’m not going to believe one word from anyone who tells me the risk is “manageable” and that they are “doing all they can.”

Safest destination on the planet? Not for long!

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