Danny De Gracia: Open Up Hawaii For Vaccinated People - 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.

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi and Hawaii Gov. David Ige gave the public an interesting revelation last week when they decided to open weddings to as many as 100 people in outdoor settings.

Mind you, the science behind social distancing measures and COVID-19 is still the same as it was last week, but we now have the added perspective that because Blangiardi and Ige listened to business owners and their concerns, this activity is safe, and will be permitted.

In other words, we’ve always had the capability to safely do large outdoor weddings – at least, in theory – but it took people to complain to get concessions that modified public health policy around economic needs.

If we are going to approach COVID-19 restrictions with the attitude of “it’s not safe to do these things until someone influential complains or lots of people get restless – and then it will be safe – and here’s the science to prove it,” we might as well cross that bridge completely and just let people apply for exemptions to the COVID-19 tier rules, especially those who are vaccinated.

We know that the state has been working on a vaccine passport system for some time now, where people could present a verifiable, audited proof-of-vaccination in digital form that would allow them to participate in gatherings or other “old normal” activities.

While this could come as early as the middle of May, the question I have to ask is what’s the point in waiting that long when we already have the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-issued paper vaccination cards?

In the 20th century, we all had to keep handy those yellow International Certificate of Vaccination cards whenever people my age or older wanted to enroll in schools or travel to countries requiring certain vaccinations.

The Arc of Hilo is Hilo Medical Center's new vaccination site. Photo: Tim Wright
The only real defense we have against COVID-19 is just getting more people vaccinated faster. Tim Wright/Civil Beat

Back then, communicable diseases were every bit as dangerous as they are now, but because there was no internet of everything, presenting a government-issued card with dates of vaccination was good enough. We trusted people with the honor system.

I made it out of the 20th century alive without succumbing to a pandemic, and so did most of my readers, so perhaps we can take something useful from all this.

The CDC in their March 8 “Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People” guidance statement has determined that fully vaccinated people can:

• Visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing
• Visit with unvaccinated people from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing
• Refrain from quarantine and testing following known exposure if asymptomatic

The state already has given close to 570,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccines, and every single person who has received a shot has a CDC card.

While waiting for the state to figure out the technical considerations of a secure, verifiable vaccine passport, we ought to just let fully vaccinated people with CDC cards be permitted to engage in “old normal” activities around Hawaii.

This could be as simple as a person who wishes to hold an event in Waikiki could submit to the state or city a list of all guests who plan to attend, as well as scans of their CDC vaccine cards. Once approved, they would be permitted to have their engagement without police disruption.

Likewise, people could also slip their completed vaccination cards into transparent badge holders and wear them on a lanyard around their neck in Honolulu, and they could be permitted to be exempt from the stricter aspects of the tier system.

The CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network data on confirmed COVID-19 cases among residents and staff in nursing homes appears to suggest that vaccination has made a significant impact in pushing down the rate of infections in these prolonged, close contact settings.

And while there have been some “breakthrough cases” – instances of people who still test positive for COVID-19 even after being fully vaccinated – the important thing to remember is that the vaccine overall has made the respiratory disease survivable or less severe.

With this in mind, we might as well just let the people who have been vaccinated use their CDC cards to enjoy exemptions from most regulations. This would also place an incentive on people who have not yet been vaccinated to get the shot, so they too could be exempt.

Now, there are those who might say that this would be “opening Pandora’s box” because cards could be easily faked, but I believe our digital society’s insistence on 100% verification of everything is more security theater and bean-counting hubris than actual trusted assurance.

If the state can accelerate its vaccination distribution and the majority is inoculated, it won’t matter in the end if a few people are showing counterfeit cards.

There is no such thing as a perfect solution. That we have already seen the mutant strains of the coronavirus enter Hawaii in spite of our byzantine travel screening and testing progress suggests that the only real defense we have is just getting more people vaccinated faster.

And for those who already have their vaccine program completed, let’s not torture them any further – being a responsible and honorable citizen should have its advantages.

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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)

Using the CDC cards to give vaccinated people more access to pre covid activities is an idea that we should think carefully about. I think we should wait til our case counts start to lower into 10 or less before we allow people to go without masks instead of just allowing those with shots to do so.

Royce · 1 week ago

This all sounds fine and dandy, but I am still way back at the end of the vaccine line. I am fine to wait behind kupuna, at-risk individuals, teachers, health care workers, (not so much the legislators and their staff) for the vaccine. But why should I have to wait behind all those people to travel or have a larger gathering? 

See_Jane · 2 weeks ago

Danny, please stick to encouraging our fellow citizens to continue the practices of social distancing, mask wearing, and hand washing.  Remind those of us lucky enough to be vaccinated that we still must take every precaution not to be a vector for virus spread.  Support an increase in taxes on the rich to lend a hand to our very many neighbors in distressing situations due to the pandemic.  But, please don't second guess the experts and gamble with the lives of at-risk friends and neighbors--that's not pono at all.

td · 2 weeks ago

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