Gov And LG Need To Get On The Same Page On Major Public Statements - Honolulu Civil Beat


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The members of Civil Beat’s editorial board are Pierre Omidyar, Patti Epler, Nathan Eagle, Chad Blair, Jessica Terrell, Julia Steele, Lee Cataluna, Kim Gamel and John Hill. Opinions expressed by the editorial board reflect the group’s consensus view. Chad Blair, the Politics and Opinion Editor, can be reached at cblair@civilbeat.org.


Clear, consistent communication from government officials during a health crisis is essential to the public’s safety and well-being. It’s also important right now to keep up public confidence as the economic recovery Hawaii desperately needs is starting to blossom.

Yet, we are receiving conflicting information about COVID-19 and important decisions from our two top elected officials.

The two have been delivering contradictory messages about what people can and should expect in coming months as the state issues new policies to deal with the pandemic. But the clearest example of the break in communication can be seen watching their appearances on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s live interview show.

First, on Feb. 15, Lt. Gov. Josh Green appeared on a “Spotlight Hawaii” segment with Ryan Kalei Tsuji and Yunji de Nies.

Green, a medical doctor who plays a key role in the state’s vaccine rollout and Safe Travels program, enthused that Hawaii could well resume graduations, weddings and other large gatherings by summer while schools could reopen by mid-May.

The lieutenant governor also said he is “pushing hard” to begin inoculating residents age 65 and older in March, “contingent upon the federal government approving Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine,” as the Star-Advertiser reported the next day.

Screen shot of Lt. Gov. Josh Green on “Spotlight Hawaii” Feb. 15, where he gave an upbeat update on the state’s COVID-19 response and projected how things may go this year. 

Green said as well that Safe Travels could be amended to allow arrivals to bypass testing with what’s known as a vaccine passport, as long as travelers can show they have received the second dose of a vaccine at least two weeks before arrival.

And the lieutenant governor expected that, by March 1, critical infrastructure workers exempt from some travel requirements would be able to journey under the new rule, while all interisland travelers could do so by April 1 and all mainland travelers by May 1.

“That will really mean that by the summertime we can have lots of safe travelers, and remember the more important part is that we will be safe,” he told Tsuji and de Nies, suggesting a return to “some type of normalcy” just months from now.

Sounds great, right?

Six days later, appearing on the very same program, Gov. David Ige poured cold water on the notion that the state would soon be lowering the vaccine age from 75 to 65. Rather, he said Dr. Libby Char, the health director, wanted to draw the line at age 70 first to avoid jamming up vaccine distribution sites.

The Star-Advertiser, reporting on the same “Spotlight” program the very next day, said Ige was also “noncommittal” to amending Safe Travels to create a vaccination passport, although he said work had begun on a pilot program with the CommonPass travel health app. The governor said he was still waiting on guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and that “challenges” remained in verifying that someone has been inoculated.

A screen shot of Gov. David Ige appearing on “Spotlight Hawaii” on Feb. 22, where he took a very different position than his lieutenant governor regarding the state’s response to COVID-19 and the timeline for recovery. 

And Ige would not pledge to a timeline for reopening all public schools to in-person learning, arguing, “It doesn’t really make sense to set arbitrary deadlines.”

As for a tourism rebound — and thus an economic recovery — beginning in summer, the ever-cautious Ige said he did not expect Hawaii to return to what he calls “a new normal” before the end of the year.

Huh?

We appreciate that both the Gov and LG are sincere in their efforts to engage with the public and keep them apprised of developments regarding the pandemic.

Ultimately, policy and implementation are Ige’s call. And Green, who has all but officially declared his hope to succeed Ige when the governor’s final term ends next year, is no doubt eager to campaign as a successful COVID-19 crusader.

But it is a tremendous disservice to issue contradictory updates on the virus because it erodes public confidence in our government as well as efforts to get our economy back on track.

This is not the first time there has been a major disconnect between our leaders since the coronavirus first surfaced almost a year ago in the islands.

While things have improved, it’s far past time for the governor and lieutenant governor to speak with as unified a message as possible on what is still the greatest crisis of our time.


Read this next:

Lift Interisland Travel Restrictions Now


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About the Author

Civil Beat Editorial Board

The members of Civil Beat’s editorial board are Pierre Omidyar, Patti Epler, Nathan Eagle, Chad Blair, Jessica Terrell, Julia Steele, Lee Cataluna, Kim Gamel and John Hill. Opinions expressed by the editorial board reflect the group’s consensus view. Chad Blair, the Politics and Opinion Editor, can be reached at cblair@civilbeat.org.


Latest Comments (0)

These two have been fighting since day one.  The Gov should choose his own running mate, not someone he cannot get along with.  green should show more "Aloha" and respect the position. If green gets in, what goes around, comes around.Ige should never have been gov,  It was just a bad fit and he just couldn't do the job.  But party rules.   

Localgal16 · 4 months ago

I still can't figure out what Ige does in Hawaii.  This guy can't make a decision on anything.  We need a leader that can make proper decisions, but all he does is kick the can down the road while Hawaii goes under. 

REGuru · 4 months ago

Please, guys, get this figured out. I'm 65, diabetic with cardiac issues, and my wife has asthma and other respiratory. The vaccination efforts here on Maui seem completely disorganized to me, and only God knows when we will be eligible for vaccinations, even with these health conditions. GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER. Please.

Chris_Profio · 4 months ago

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