Once again, Hawaii is near the bottom of the list of states, but this time it’s good news. We are near the least dangerous state in the nation when it comes to COVID-19.

Mitigation works. As Lt. Gov. Josh Green has said, our curve is about as flat as it can get. Hawaii is a mitigation success story.

It also helps to be an island state, that almost no one currently visits, sitting in the middle of a vast ocean. We’ve gone from 30,000 daily arrivals to a couple hundred daily tourists.

You can thank Governor Ige’s quarantine. It was a little farcical at first, but it now has some teeth, courtesy of the Hawaii National Guard. Mitigation, coupled with isolation from the rest of the world, means that Honolulu is not New York City.

A Hawaii National Guard member uses a thermometer in an area cordoned off from the public as passengers make their way to the TSA security checkpoint area at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport on April 6. Screening visitors makes good sense. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

With new daily infections on Oahu in the zeros, onesies and twosies — amongst a population in excess of a million — it’s probably time to do more than allow us to exercise in the parks. Local folks aren’t much of a danger to each other.

It may be a little early to re-open Aloha Stadium or the NBC, but it’s time to end the work-at-home/stay-at-home orders. That will bring relief to those who still have work.

Unfortunately, it won’t help those who used to work in the great engine that drives Hawaii’s economy: the visitor industry. It’s closed. And we all are screwed.

Restart The Visitor Industry

We can’t depend on the federal government to save us. We are a state: We don’t have the authority to print money. So even if you don’t work in the visitor industry, you are going to suffer the economic consequences in the form of higher taxes, reduced income or both.

Hawaii’s unemployment rate is reaching 35%. At the U.S. Army’s Command and General Staff College, they teach that when unemployment exceeds forty percent, there are significant societal disruptions. Our “incident commander,” Major General Ken Hara, witnessed that first-hand, in Iraq.

We need to get the visitor industry restarted or we will die.

Yet, if we open our doors to the world tomorrow, we invite a public health catastrophe. How do we do it safely?

We welcome visitors who are not infected. We keep out those who are.

If we can require inbound passengers to Hawaii to submit to an Ag Department inspection, we can surely test them for COVID-19 before they get on the plane. Congressman Ed Case supports this approach.

One answer may be to screen inbound passengers with detection dogs, just as we screen airline passengers for drugs or explosives. This is not far-fetched. Medical detection dogs are already being used to identify cancer, malaria, and Parkinson’s disease.

Local folks aren’t much of a danger to each other.

The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has reported promising results for canine detection of COVID-19. Detection dogs can screen up to 250 people per hour. Inbound passengers who don’t pass the sniff test could be pulled aside for further medical testing.

The best candidate would be the antigen test that was approved on May 9 by the FDA and can provide a result in about 15 minutes. Those who come up positive would not be allowed to board.

If we can’t do it on the departure end, then we can do it on the arriving end. Sniff and swab when they get off the plane.

Couple that with the governor’s powers to impose a quarantine on any arriving passenger — especially one who tests positive — and you have a recipe for safely reopening the visitor industry.

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