It’s Prudent For Hawaii To Hold Off On Reopening


About the Author

Dorian Weisel

Dorian Weisel is a retired photographer who spent more than 20 years documenting Kilauea Volcano's activity. He has had three books of his work in print, the most popular of them, “Kilauea: The Newest And On Earth,” was originally published by Bishop Museum in 1990.


On June 19 the World Health Organization announced that increases in new COVID-19 cases worldwide are now exceeding 150,000 per day, and half of those are from the Americas.

While in the United States, which accounts for roughly 4% of the world’s population while having 20% of all new COVID-19 cases, some businesses that have reopened are now shuttering again as they see the fallout from individual state’s premature efforts to address their economic concerns.

And even California, where there was much less pushback to the stay at home policies than in other states, is now seeing surges in cases and the corresponding overload of their health care systems.

With these facts in mind I would think it is prudent for Hawaii to take a step back and see how all this plays out before we further embrace the return of tourism. Or, at a minimum, we should expect that any reopening comes with an extremely robust assurance that we are not allowing the return of COVID-19 as a consequence.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green at the press conference Wednesday announcing a testing plan as an alternative to the island’s 14-day quarantine. But it might be better for Hawaii to wait and see how COVID-19 evolves elsewhere.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

We all want to get out and have our lives back, but isn’t it also important that as we do we capitalize on our recent, so far relatively successful, effort to keep COVID-19 from spreading unchecked through our communities? Isn’t our health, regardless of whether we are sheltering in place or freely moving about, still paramount over all other considerations?

After the WHO’s announcement a national headline read, “EU To Ban American Travelers.” And the story that followed spoke of a society that is not mature enough to set aside individual personal desires and agree to restrictions that serve the common good, and the world’s fear of us because of it.

America In Denial

America, by and large, has by its denial of the severity of the COVID-19 crisis failed in its effort to control the disease. Yes, we here in Hawaii are Americans, but by the luck of the draw Hawaii is populated with a far greater number of people that care about their neighbors and are willing to make the necessary individual sacrifices to insure their well being than many on the mainland.

As it is, we, by our isolation, our governor’s willingness to take decisive action and close our borders, and our participation in social distancing, have avoided having a COVID-19 crisis.

But if we are to be true to ourselves, true to the effort we have already made, and hold the course we have already invested so heavily in, I believe we must acknowledge the EU’s concerns and keep in place policies that protect us as well as their policies are designed to protect them.

But instead, on the heels of the world’s acknowledgement that the U.S. has failed to contain COVID-19, Governor Ige committed to a timeline and process for our reopening. Not, seemingly, one that is shaped by a recognition of the currently expanding pandemic and all the dangers it presents but one driven by other considerations.

In the days leading up to the governor’s announcement Lt. Gov. Josh Green was seen repeatedly lobbying for the policies now being enacted. The core of which is a negative result of a pre-flight molecular-based COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of travel to the islands.

And while such a test is a great place to start, the possibility that a traveler could be exposed to COVID-19 between the time they take the test and their departure for the islands is too great for us to rest assured tourists will not be a threat to our well being. Especially when they come from states that are reporting greater and greater numbers of new COVID-19 cases and still have minimal, if any, social distancing policies in place.

Interestingly, while Green was developing his plan for our reopening, a group of doctors and community leaders on Kauai proposed a different approach. Upon arrival, visitors would take a COVID-19 test and be confined to a designated quarantine hotel until taking a second test that if negative would then allow them to move about freely.

Admittedly this plan is more restrictive than the lieutenant governor’s and as such would only allow for a smaller number of visitors to enter our communities.

I appreciate that our society is under incredible strain.

But, by all measures, isn’t Kauai’s approach the one that is best suited to protect us from the concerns the EU highlighted when they banned travel from the United States? Isn’t Kauai’s plan more in keeping with our, already clearly demonstrated, desire to be COVID-19 free? Isn’t Kauai’s plan a better one to start with statewide, at least initially, while we watch and see how the COVID-19 crisis unfolds on the mainland?

And still, I appreciate that our society is under incredible strain. That hospitals are poised to close and bankruptcies increase as businesses fail and job furloughs turn into permanent layoffs. I appreciate that incidents of domestic violence and suicides are growing, and that the state’s need for the revenue tourism creates is palpable. That without a return to business every sector of our society will be irreparably harmed.

And still I think, as we commit to our reopening, we need to ask what happens if, as with all the states on the mainland that are now seeing a resurgence in cases because of their premature openings, we too have a resurgence?

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 photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to news@civilbeat.org. The opinions and information expressed in Community Voices are solely those of the authors and not Civil Beat.


Read this next:

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About the Author

Dorian Weisel

Dorian Weisel is a retired photographer who spent more than 20 years documenting Kilauea Volcano's activity. He has had three books of his work in print, the most popular of them, “Kilauea: The Newest And On Earth,” was originally published by Bishop Museum in 1990.


Latest Comments (0)

"We are visiting August 4 from the East Coast.  We will stay for 23 days in Kauai in a large villa home with a pool on a resort property. We don’t want to catch Covid 19 and will do a full quarantine for the 14 days before we arrive, except for allowing a doctor to test our family 72 hours in advance of travelling. We are fine certifying that we’re doing this and fine getting tested again when we land in Kauai. Going to a designated quarantine hotel seems like an unnecessary risk that could be like going to a nursing home where we are actually putting ourselves at greater risk. We would be fine isolating for an additional period at the rented villa home. Hawaii vacation spots are designed for folks to be outside. We are also fine wearing masks. We are in this together and my family cares about safety and others just as much as full time Hawaii residents. We want to vacation, not get or cause sickness.

Prufrock · 6 days ago

I'm all for waiting on opening up but right now I am more concerned about schools opening up safely and I haven't seen any evidence of that yet.

Pete · 1 week ago

A retired volcano photographer has no skin in the game. He also loves not having to deal with traffic and pesky tourists. In all seriousness, government employees and retired people should not preach to the rest of us. Stay home and you’ll be safe, it’s totally up to you to avoid Covid. now let the rest of us provide for our families. 

ManoaBizOwner · 1 week ago

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