Facts Matter, During This Pandemic And Beyond - Honolulu Civil Beat

About the Author

Paul Migliorato

Paul Migliorato is vice president of membership and marketing of the Hawaii Economic Association.

Journalism students are taught to believe what they see and not to see what they believe. This fact-focused approach is fundamental to journalism and to crisis analysis as well.

Reporting has long provided a means to understand the world around us, particularly in times of crisis. Of late, though, the act of reporting competes against the act of opining. Anyone can now broadcast opinions and rate the veracity of other reporting. Who needs truth when labels and spin seem more telling than facts?

The answer is that we all do. Facts matter. They’ve never mattered more, and can’t be negated by opinion. While the truth has become an increasingly individual commodity, facts are vital for navigating the mounting challenges faced by Hawaii and its citizens in the face of a lifetime-defining pandemic.

We do share one essential, undeniable reality: By any definition of economic health, Hawaii faces a present and future more dire than any in its history as a state.

The most effective means to address the state’s economic vulnerability involves a return of the visitor base whose spending has done so much to fuel growth.

But with the (even gradual) return of visitors comes the risk that the pandemic’s spread could overwhelm the state’s limited medical resources and endanger residents. The risk/reward profile shifts daily.
 Here are some more facts:

The Safety Net Is At Risk

Both state and county coffers face grave revenue shortfalls for the foreseeable future. The safety net that revenues provide will face risk as well. With state unemployment above 20%, the number of families facing income shortfalls is at a historic high.

If some aren’t yet feeling the impact of the economic contraction, they will move a step closer to doing so once federal expenditures meant to be a bridge to recovery stop arriving. The risk/reward profile shifts daily.

That Risk Will Be Shared By All

The economic downturn engulfs and affects us all. Although its form varies, we have in common an element of financial fragility. For many families, employment is made possible by the availability of school and child care. Without it, they face financial paralysis and potential impoverishment.

For those not reliant on child care or not having seen declines in income, having enough money to afford a nice meal does little good if the restaurant can’t remain open because diners have chosen to avoid potential exposure to an unpredictable virus.

Like it or not, what results is risk shared by all. It is both financial and health-related and it threatens those on both the highest and lowest rungs of Hawaii’s economic ladder, and everyone in between as well. Recognizing that no one is exempt from this risk is a vital starting point for addressing the crisis Hawaii faces.

Being Part Of The Solution

Government can and should be part of a solution. No one balks at government providing the services and infrastructure which make life here possible. We share sidewalks, roads, airports, public services, and much more that governments provide.

We also share a reliance on government-funded schools, for they educate the workforce that makes Hawaii productive. 
Aside from government, no single institution or individual has the capacity to oversee statewide virus testing and compile data, to consider measures to mitigate risk, and to direct the economy.

Instead, many expect government to focus primarily on managing dissatisfaction, a term not found in many constitutions or campaign slogans. 
Elections provide us biennial opportunities to choose leaders. Between now and November, when Hawaii will be at its most vulnerable pandemic-wise, expecting them to be part of the solution seems a reasonable demand of those seeking election.

Best Measures Are Needed

Data matters. Data provide the best measure of where we stand, both in terms of risk and response. It is something we need to both see and believe in addressing this crisis.

There are daily reports on the extent of COVID-19’s spread, and frequent reports on its economic impact: data on jobs, consumer demand and sentiment, and tax revenue. For economists and policymakers, these are the equivalent of the test results doctors analyze in rendering medical decisions.

Few shared experiences are as visceral or real as the threats posed by a pandemic. While many areas have been hit far harder than Hawaii epidemiologically, the impact of this pernicious virus has been universal.

Hawaii’s location is only an advantage in combating the virus if we recognize that the multiple risks COVID-19 poses to us all are also risks that we have the means to measure, track, and address. In fact, returning to the version of life here we knew so recently won’t happen otherwise.

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About the Author

Paul Migliorato

Paul Migliorato is vice president of membership and marketing of the Hawaii Economic Association.

Latest Comments (0)

    Hats off to the hard working journalists who report the facts. Unfortunately the facts are competing against all kinds if disinformation. The public has a hard time figuring out what is fact and what is politically motivated propaganda, advertising, opinion, bad science, flawed studies....     Many media outlets and individual journalists have sold out, and exchanged their credibility for a quick buck or political gain. This is why public confidence in the media is at an all time low.     It would help restore confidence if journalists would once and for all reject the idea that it is their role to shape people’s opinions rather than inform them.   

Arewethereyet · 1 year ago

Excellent commentary that hits all the critical and salient points. We need more of this type of commentary and less of those bashing our powers that be with no solutions offered other than to complain loudly. Facts matter more than ever in pandemics. Those that have most to lose (elections) will spin "alternative facts" and those that follow those people will swallow and spread alternative facts and conspiracy theories far and wide. Those that believe the cure is worse than the disease are calling for herd immunity and tourism to roar again. Old people? Immunocompromised? Let them shelter in place - at least until the election is over.

kbaybaby · 1 year ago

Excellent balanced commentary. Well done, Paul!If the bottom line is saving as many lives as possible, then pursuing policies aiming to flatten the number of COVID-19 cases w/o any regard to the negative physical & mental health/economic side effects fails in that mission.  An economic shutdown that deprives one earning an adequate income jeopardizes that the ability to keep a roof over their head, put food on the table, & get proper medical care for all health issues (not just COVID-19). Failure to do any of these are all potentially life threatening to anyone. But too many people are acting as though COVID-19 is the only deadly threat out there. Thus, the call for laws/policies intended to "cure" the pandemic, but turning out to be worse than the disease itself.If you've been feeding yourself with federal aid money or kept in your home because of the eviction moratorium, know that your situation is not going to be sustainable forever.

KalihiValleyHermit · 1 year ago

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