Many Hawaii residents say they’d be willing to undergo a COVID-19 lockdown again in the name of public health, even if they feel the pandemic has negatively impacted their lives.

More than 600 people responded to an online survey from the University of Hawaii Public Policy Center about the various efforts that have been taken to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, including business and school closures and stay-at-home orders.

“The major takeaway is people are still very scared. You see this in their willingness to repeat a lot of restrictions,” said report co-author Colin Moore, director of the policy center.

New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel and right, San Souci condominiums.
The two-week quarantine required for all incoming Hawaii travelers, including tourists and residents alike, has been extended many times over by state officials. The restrictions are slated to stay in effect until September. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

Responses were gathered during May and June, before Hawaii started to see an increase in cases again. A striking two-thirds of respondents said they’d be willing to go through certain restrictions again if Hawaii faces another surge of infections.

At the time, 67% of people surveyed said they expected another serious wave of the virus.

The responses are summarized in the report “Life Under Lockdown: Hawaii Resident Assessment of COVID-19 Restrictions.”

Measures people were willing to do again included using masks in public, shutting down vacation rentals, stopping outdoor team sports, restricting dining at restaurants and school or child care closures.

Certain rules were deemed “not worth it” by respondents, such as barring non-COVID medical visits, activity on public beaches, and shopping. Discouraging medical visits and requiring an initial two-week quarantine for interisland travel was also frowned upon by some.

When asked what Hawaii might “have done better,” the top two answers involved more restrictions on tourism and more effective quarantine enforcement.

Some had suggestions, such as rotating business and shopping hours, encouraging curbside pickup from stores and implementing policies that could help small businesses to remain open along with larger “big box” stores.

“One of the remarkable things about this survey is that people have really sophisticated and considered opinions about these policies,” said Moore. “Often when you conduct a survey, people are giving you a quick reaction, but because these restrictions and the pandemic have affected them so greatly they really gave the answers a lot of thought.”

COVID-19 And Socioeconomics

Overall, more than a third of respondents said their household was dealing with significant financial stress. Demographics also played a role in how people reported COVID-19’s effect on their lives.

Government workers or respondents from relatively affluent households were better able to transition to remote work. Those who reported that they’ve begun to work from home were from households with annual incomes above $75,000.

Meanwhile, a greater proportion of low-income respondents said they were dealing with increased economic challenges. Nearly half of households with incomes below $35,000 a year said their homes suffered a big loss of income. Renters, as a separate group, also reported a big loss of income.

Koa Yokota arrives to the beach with his short board and COVID mask to catch some waves in Waimanalo, HI, on Sunday, July 12, 2020. (Ronen Zilberman photo Civil Beat)
Many survey respondents said restricting beach access was worth it the first time around, but they would prefer the state take a different approach if the outbreak worsens again. Ronen Zilberman/Civil Beat/2020

Filipinos have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, according to the survey’s authors. Nearly half of Filipino families reported substantial income loss.

“It’s clear that lower-income and other marginalized groups were the most negatively affected by the lockdown, especially Filipinos because of their strong presence in the tourism and service sector,” Moore said. “But they were also the least willing to see tourism resume in its current form. What’s even more remarkable is that lower-income respondents were also the most willing to repeat the same restrictions again.”

No Tourists Yet, Respondents Say

The findings come as state officials extend Hawaii’s 14-day quarantine for all incoming travelers, and put off plans for a pre-travel test program until Sept. 1, which would have allowed people to bypass the quarantine if they tested negative for the virus prior to their arrival.

Moore noted COVID-19 cases have involved some residents returning home after traveling, but much of the anxiety expressed in survey responses was “concentrated around tourism,” Moore said.

An overwhelming 81% of respondents said they did not want tourists “visiting their community right now.”

“Even people who work in industries that are dependent on tourists are really not ready for tourists to come back yet,” Moore said.

“I think this is a combination of fear and a sense that tourism wasn’t working well even before COVID-19,” he said.

Approximately 69% of respondents said they’d prefer the tourism industry make changes before Hawaii lifts its quarantine, such as how many visitors come to Hawaii and what type of tourism the state attracts.

Read the full report below.

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