Danny De Gracia: It's Not Just Tourists We Need To Be Concerned About - Honolulu Civil Beat

About the Author

Danny de Gracia

Danny de Gracia is a resident of Waipahu, a political scientist and an ordained minister. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views. You can reach him by email at dgracia@civilbeat.org or follow him on Twitter at @ddg2cb.

Remember the good old days when Hawaii’s COVID-19 cases were in the low single digits, and coronavirus deniers were taking victory laps over how this was proof the disease was some contrived, left-wing conspiracy?

Slowly but surely, the positive cases started coming back on Oahu, and we now find ourselves with an epidemic curve that is starting to look a lot like the beginning of this crisis. This is particularly disturbing because it’s happening even with stringent protective strategies in place and an ongoing 14-day quarantine of incoming visitors.

While a visitor quarantine is helpful in preventing other states from “re-seeding” Hawaii with fresh strains, we still have a responsibility in the Aloha State to use the pause to burn out the existing infections here in the islands.

There has been significant political pressure on both Gov. David Ige and the airline industry to help in screening infected visitors from traveling to Hawaii, but all of that will be for naught if we have “clean” tourists but haphazard residents.

Wear your mask in public, wash your hands and stand 6 feet away from others to do your part to stop the spread of coronavirus. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

People have not been consistently observing physical distancing, mask use and enforcement has been sporadic and, worst of all, the low case numbers have actually persuaded a number of people that the threat is over or never existed to begin with. Our local government has exhausted itself trying to square a circle in fighting coronavirus and yielding to public pressure to open up as much of Hawaii as possible, and truth be told, there really is nothing more that public health agencies can do if the public doesn’t step up and do its part.

We Don’t Need Lockdowns, We Need Alert People

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger once bemoaned that the 21st century has given rise to an era of shortened attention spans and “a transitory Internet experience, watched intently for a few key moments, then tuned out once the main event is deemed over.”

This is precisely what is happening with COVID-19, where an intersection of public impatience, political demagoguery and bad economics threatens to undermine everything we’ve accomplished in fighting the virus.

Make no mistake, we are by no means out of the woods with the COVID-19 threat. We are still in the first wave of coronavirus, and no matter how much testing and contact tracing authorities do, you can’t bail water out of a sinking ship full of holes that’s populated by people dedicated to drilling even more holes in the hull.

Hawaii’s level-headed people need to play a vital role in speaking the truth on this pandemic and exercising self-control to prevent further spread of the virus.

Once Hawaii learns the self-discipline of prevention, we can get society and the economy running again.

First we had the absurdity of some deniers who initially insisted “more people die of the flu than coronavirus” but then were confronted by the math that 62,000 flu deaths is not quite the same as 119,000 COVID-19 deaths.

“Oh, but 99% of those who died of coronavirus had pre-existing diseases,” came the next denial. News flash: Everyone has some kind of pre-existing disease, but that doesn’t mean it’s responsible for killing them.

And then there’s my favorite of all, the people who are actually disappointed in the government’s response because “these so-called experts claimed more people would die; fire them all!” The only reason deaths and ICU overloads didn’t approach the initial projections was because we acted relatively quickly in places like Hawaii, but we shouldn’t tempt the fates and assume this will always be so.

As I see it, there are two types of people in Hawaii who need to get a wake up call on COVID-19. The first are the people who think that this virus will either go away on its own or that it was never a threat to begin with. The others are the ones who don’t care about the case numbers and actually want everyone to get infected, so that somehow “herd immunity” can occur.

When you’re dealing with a novel virus, the public must do its part to prevent further infection. The best example of why public action matters is the case of South Africa, a place where the rate of HIV infections is the highest in the world, where no such herd immunity exists – despite so many being infected – to stop the spread of AIDS, and where vaccine trials failed spectacularly.

You can’t depend on herd immunity or a vaccine or government to stop a virus. Even Sweden, hailed for weeks by coronavirus deniers as a prime example of a “success story” in COVID-19 herd immunity, was discovered last week to have only 6.1% of the population immune to the virus, compared to the optimistic 40% that was previously estimated by their chief epidemiologist.

One of the things that I loved about Old Hawaii was how the community was able to keep things together because everyone played a role in educating each other in shared values. In 2020, as we continue to fight for our lives amidst COVID-19, we as a community need to value prevention. It’s the only thing that will sustainably work against this disease in the long-term.

Want more information on COVID-19 in Hawaii? You can read all of Civil Beat’s coronavirus coverage, find answers to frequently asked questions or sign up for email newsletter updates — all for free. And check out pictures of how community groups and volunteers have been helping out in our Community Scrapbook.

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About the Author

Danny de Gracia

Danny de Gracia is a resident of Waipahu, a political scientist and an ordained minister. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views. You can reach him by email at dgracia@civilbeat.org or follow him on Twitter at @ddg2cb.

Latest Comments (0)

With asymptomatic transmission we can't really be alert.  I do agree hand sanitizing and washing, face masks, cleaning should continue at the level we were at prior to re-opening the economy.  We can try and prevent more cases from coming to Hawaii by limiting tourists.  But we can't kick out Hawaii residents.With hospitalizations on the rise again and with limited healthcare and number of respirators here in Hawaii, restricting the number of outsiders is still a good idea.

surferx808 · 2 years ago

While I agree with most of what you wrote, I don’t think you should have used HIV as an example. Herd immunity is accomplished when the community establishes a sufficient level of immunocompetence. This is traditionally accomplished through vaccines or previous infections which eventually lead to your body producing antibodies specific for the antigens of the pathogen to protect you from being reinfected once your body clears it.  However, with HIV it’s a lifelong illness that your body does not eventually clear unlike COVID-19 (except for those who perish) so it feels disingenuous to compare them via herd immunity when they are not similar in that aspect.Instead, I think you could strengthen your argument by discussing the recent study that suggested COVID-19 antibodies might not be effective for more than a few months (especially in those who were largely asymptomatic), therefore severely limiting the possibility of herd immunity if that’s the case.

Cameron · 2 years ago

Endless speculation and hand-wringing will not stop the spread of COVID19.Shut down the airports. Require masks at all times. Grocery shopping by reservation only. Institute a system of checkpoints where police can verify our travel papers.What's that? Nobody wants to live that way? Life is a risk, nothing is guaranteed... don't make me stay home just because you might be vulnerable.

shorttimer · 2 years ago

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