We Must Continue To Be Vigilant About COVID-19 - Honolulu Civil Beat

About the Author

Owen Agbayani

Owen Agbayani is a 2021 graduate of James Campbell High School.

In a small Longs Drugs store in Waianae, I sat with my mother near the pharmacy as we waited for our first shot of the Pfizer vaccine. At this point in time, many of my friends and family were already vaccinated; they were hospital volunteers, essential workers, elderly and the like. Despite vaccine rollout efforts in Hawaii, our cases continue to steadily remain in triple digits. 

Due to the reopening of restaurants, beaches, stores, (some) schools and travel, not to mention residents and tourists alike who disregard COVID-19 precautions, vaccinated or not, Hawaii faces a returning trend in its cases from last year. 

Attending Hawaii’s largest public school, I am met with a variety of reactions whenever someone mentions the cases we have on Oahu alone. Some are disgusted by the amount of potentially unvaccinated people out in public, which barely supersedes the 35% who are fully vaccinated as of May 6, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Others, though, don’t really care. Fitting, considering it seems that not many people had been caring at all from the start.

Perhaps this apathy may stem from certain people failing to distinguish the rhetoric between survival rate and mortality rate. Another suggestion is the need to socialize; Hawaii is quite a small place and by taking away that already limited interaction between busy-working peers, especially those who rely on it, we are essentially set up for deteriorating mental health, disconnection to society and overall failure to function.

With those reasons in mind, and the fact that we are a victim of a ravaging tourism industry, there are plenty of reasons to believe why many people continue to go out, and yet none of them are enough to justify their actions, save for maybe working to keep their families alive. 

Pfizer COVID-19 vacciine in syringes at Blaisdell Concert Hall.
Syringes of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

It’s been a year since our very first “lockdown” (which only lasted for a few months), and Hawaii has faced both resistance and support for the different ideas of maintaining the people’s health and safety. But even with the tier system, social distancing recommendations and incorporating COVID-19 research into Hawaii’s education, we are met on a daily basis with headlines of “X amount of cases” or “Y amount of COVID-related deaths.”

Many have argued that these statistics merely pale in comparison to those of the mainland; for example, whereas Hawaii as a whole reported 61 new coronavirus cases on May 10, Los Angeles reported 179. Unfortunately, what most people in Hawaii fail to understand is just how fast COVID-19 can spread and kill, not only due to our dreadfully small geography but also due to the recklessness of our own denizens. 

Around October 2020, Hawaii attempted to revive its tourism industry, shortly after the economy almost collapsed due to the coronavirus driving away businesses and shutting down practically everything else.

Since then, travel has reopened, beaches have been packed and everything seemed to go back to normal — that is, if you exclude the positive cases and deaths in our state, or the late action taken by the Honolulu Police Department to arrest more violators of COVID-19 guidelines, or the multiple mask-less gatherings such as parties and concerts or quite literally anything that’s happening on the island that prohibits us from moving up a tier and reducing our number of infections.

Hawaii could do better. We should do better. I’ve witnessed the frustration and sorrow expressed by many of my friends and family members and their friends and their friends’ family members.

Just last week, I took my AP exams on campus, and it was one of the first and only instances I physically met my classmates. If we’re going to actually get our feet solid in the ground of recovery — economically, socially, mentally — we need better policies and better practices. We need to be better people.

So, wear your mask. Get vaccinated. Take that step towards helping Hawaii get better. Otherwise, who knows when we’ll ever improve beyond this point? 

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:

Neal Milner: In Preparing For A Pandemic, The US Was A Failed State

Before you go

Civil Beat is a small nonprofit newsroom that provides free content with no paywall. That means readership growth alone can’t sustain our journalism. The truth is that less than 1% of our monthly readers are financial supporters. To remain a viable business model for local news, we need a higher percentage of readers-turned-donors.

Will you consider becoming a new donor today?


About the Author

Owen Agbayani

Owen Agbayani is a 2021 graduate of James Campbell High School.

Latest Comments (0)

Great article bradda & congrats on your graduation! It seems you've been writing for years. No way I would've guessed it came from someone so young. Keep at it & you'll have a great career. 

KokoKai_Boi · 2 months ago

Join the conversation


IDEAS is the place you'll find essays, analysis and opinion on every aspect of life and public affairs in Hawaii. We want to showcase smart ideas about the future of Hawaii, from the state's sharpest thinkers, to stretch our collective thinking about a problem or an issue. Email news@civilbeat.org to submit an idea.


You're officially signed up for our daily newsletter, the Morning Beat. A confirmation email will arrive shortly.

In the meantime, we have other newsletters that you might enjoy. Check the boxes for emails you'd like to receive.

  • What's this? Be the first to hear about important news stories with these occasional emails.
  • What's this? You'll hear from us whenever Civil Beat publishes a major project or investigation.
  • What's this? Get our latest environmental news on a monthly basis, including updates on Nathan Eagle's 'Hawaii 2040' series.
  • What's this? Get occasional emails highlighting essays, analysis and opinion from IDEAS, Civil Beat's commentary section.

Inbox overcrowded? Don't worry, you can unsubscribe
or update your preferences at any time.