Lee Cataluna: Whose Fault Is Covid-19 Now? - Honolulu Civil Beat

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Lee Cataluna

Lee Cataluna is a columnist for Civil Beat. You can reach her by email at lcataluna@civilbeat.org

Opinion article badgeIf you should come down with Covid-19 this week or this month, whose fault is it?

I don’t mean if “someone” catches Covid-19. If it’s “someone” and not you, the answer is too easy. It’s their own damn fault, right?

But no, I mean you, as in each of us individually.

If you get sick, is it your own damn fault? Or is there a long list of people and things to blame?

Too often, it’s the latter.

Covid-19 has destroyed so many things: lives, livelihoods, social gatherings, sports seasons, school experiences. It has also killed personal responsibility just when we need that the most.

The litany of blame started in the early days when Covid cases first started showing up in Hawaii. Bruce Anderson got the blame for not knowing the unknowable or doing the undoable. He had come out of retirement to head the state Department of Health for Gov. David Ige. Then came Covid and the firestorm of criticism for not creating and staffing a contact-tracing system fast enough.

Tulsi Gabbard was still in Congress at the time, and she started calling for Anderson’s head because that’s what she does best  — make headlines by criticizing others for not leading rather than leading herself. So Anderson retired again and contact tracers were hired and thank goodness for that because, if not, our daily Covid cases would be many times what they were when Anderson left office a year ago.

Oh, oops. Covid cases in Hawaii ARE many times what they were when Anderson left office a year ago. Never mind. We’ve moved on to blame others.

As state epidemiologist, Sarah Park was blamed for Covid because she, too, did not amass an army of contact tracers in the spring of 2020. She emphasized social distancing and hand-washing instead. Park stepped down. Contact tracing commenced. And how many lives has contact tracing saved?  Hard to tell. The only real numbers we have are the hundreds of new cases every day that arose because each one of those people had contact with an infected person.

Former Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell took more than his share of hits in the blame game. Well, maybe not more than his share. He got what he had coming. His frantic “look busy” measures, like beach closures and a single weekend of an overnight curfew, did not give the impression that a steady hand was at the helm of the city.

Caldwell came up with convoluted rules that required daily press conferences to explain and still didn’t make sense. He made various city restrictions seem so much more capricious and insufferable.

But he’s gone now, and Covid isn’t, so the blame train moves on.

Gov. David Ige is always a great target. He’s so ineffectual and he never fights back. He was blamed for not shutting down all travel to Hawaii from the beginning, and for the lame 14-day quarantine that no one knew how to enforce. Then he was blamed for opening up travel to Hawaii. Now, some people want him to shut down the state again while many more are screaming for him to let businesses and tourism stay open. Blame Gov. David Ige for being Gov. David Ige — indecisive and uninspiring.

Now that the kids are back in schools, the Department of Education is catching blame for the spread of the virus and for failing to enforce social distancing in small, crowded classrooms. Is it schools’ fault for not keeping students safe? The kids’ fault for letting their masks slip below their noses? The parents’ fault for sending the child to school?

Don’t forget to blame the tourists who kept coming to Hawaii last year with no intention of obeying quarantine. Blame the unsafe ones who slipped through Safe Travels. Blame the surge of rowdy revelers who piled in rental cars and went over every inch of the islands, mask or no mask, bound and determined to have a good time.

(Don’t blame the locals who traveled to Vegas or for their kid’s sports team or to bring their child to a mainland college … even though they deserve a measure of blame, somehow they get a pass because … uh … because so many locals have done or plan to do the same thing.)

The Queen's Medical Center West Oahu Covid-19 triage tent.
The public blamed officials for inadequate contact tracing, but even after contact tracing increased, cases went so high that hospitals had to rely on Covid-19 triage tents. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

One of the more far-fetched forays into fantasy by those opposed to vaccine mandates is that it is actually the vaccinated people who are spreading the virus to the unvaccinated. There seems to be no end to how far they will go to stand by their self-injurious principles.

There’s so much blame to go around.

But if you don’t want to get Covid, there’s a lot you can do to not get Covid.

Unlike when a massive storm bears down on the islands, Hawaii is not sitting helpless as destruction heads our way. In this situation, personal responsibility matters most of all. Being careful and well-informed, realistic and self-reliant, can override any waffling or misfires by government or your weird neighbor or those daring Covid to take them down in the name of liberty.

Each of us is our own guardian or contact tracer. Each bubble of friends or family is its own defending army. Bruce Anderson, Sarah Park, Libby Char, Josh Green and many others have said the same thing since the beginning: Keep yourself safe.

Read this next:

Neal Milner: When Aloha Becomes A Cudgel

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About the Author

Lee Cataluna

Lee Cataluna is a columnist for Civil Beat. You can reach her by email at lcataluna@civilbeat.org

Latest Comments (0)

I guess you can only blame yourself, if you don't take the standard precautions right?  People are going to be people, it's an "all about me" society today, where ignore traffic signals, stand in the middle of the isle on their cell phones, oblivious to others trying to get around them.  It's just that kind of world, even here in Hawaii and if you don't mask up, distance or just simply avoid crowds altogether then you may put yourself at higher risk.  The blame game only goes so far, we all need to take responsibility and be pono.  

wailani1961 · 4 months ago

Lets rephrase the question: Who's fault is it that people don't want to get vaccinated? I'd say the same people who fed us misinformation for the past 18+ months, and it wasn't totally on them because they were faced with, as, Lee Cataluna said, the unknowable and undoable. Being empathetic about why people don't trust the government or the media would be a good starting point in educating others. Getting information from reputable sources is a must. We can learn how the Influenza and C-19 are different, they mutate differently, the vaccines work differently. We may even learn the C-19 didn't just mutate, but that it may have been mutating from early on and it just needed the inevitable bridge to cross. Last year the media reported on the amount of ventilators that were being used, but they had to admit that it wasn't just C-19 patients using them. Also, that when they said 50% of them were being used actually meant 3 out of 6 ventilators. So now we're told the hospitals are overflowing and overwhelmed, but what does that really mean?Patience has a negative connotation towards the "other side". Understanding why people think the way the do, is key to getting control of C-19

surfnturf808 · 4 months ago

"One of the more far-fetched forays into fantasy by those opposed to vaccine mandates is that it is actually the vaccinated people who are spreading the virus to the unvaccinated. There seems to be no end to how far they will go to stand by their self-injurious principles."Lee, what if you are wrong and the vaccine actually has caused the Delta?  Let me restate that- you are wrong and you have no idea the depths of the evil that runs this world.

KeolaRichard · 4 months ago

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