Reopening Hawaii: For Better or For Worse?

Photo+Courtesy+of+Hawaiian+Airlines.

Photo Courtesy of Hawaiian Airlines.

 

“There’s too much to lose, from our health standpoint but also from the business standpoint. We cannot afford a third shutdown; it would be devastating,” Honolulu City Council member Tommy Waters said when asked about the state’s planned reopening in an interview on Tuesday, October 6th. This highlights the very dilemma many lawmakers and residents alike are facing with respect to the coronavirus pandemic. Is it better to reopen the state to save our economy? Or should we stay closed to ensure the health of the people?

The state is planning to implement its new travel plan starting on October 15th. This would allow for travelers to avoid the two week quarantine in Hawaii upon their arrival if they provide a negative coronavirus test within three days of their departure. The new plan would essentially mark the reopening of Hawaii. However, many state officials and local residents are worried that these actions may be premature and will have devastating consequences. A significant number of people are also concerned that the state’s actions to reopen tourism will only lead to a third shutdown, threatening to cripple the economy further. 

Kauai Mayor, Derek Kawakami, is one of many lawmakers who are opposed to the reopening plan presented by the state. He asked Governor David Ige to approve a plan for Kauai that would require a second negative coronavirus test upon the tourists’ arrival on the island. However, the request was denied by the Governor.

 “Our proposed pilot was intended to augment the state’s pre-travel testing program,” Mayor Kawakami said.  “Our county administration has been clear that a single pre-arrival testing program alone does not provide the needed level of protection for our Kauai community. However, our proposed second-test program has formally been denied.”

Mayor Harry Kim of the Big Island has also shown strong opposition to the travel plan and has officially opted out of the one test pre-travel program. Visitors to the Big Island must still quarantine for fourteen days upon their arrival, regardless of whether they can present a negative Coronavirus test. However, Mayor Kim has reported that he is working with Governor Ige to form a new, safer plan that would require tourists coming to the islands to present two or three negative Coronavirus tests before waiving the two week quarantine. 

Big Island residents have mixed opinions on the Mayor’s decision to opt out of the state’s program. As the island depends heavily on tourism, many locals are struggling to make ends meet without the visitors. Again, people are being forced to decide which comes first: the health of the people or the economy?

“We really need the tourism. We really need our jobs back. We really need, you know, the money. However, we’re not equipped to handle people getting sick by any means here on the Big Island,” Kona resident Kapuailohia Van Dorpe-Nahale said in an interview with KITV.

Others in the community, though, are not as supportive of the plan as Van Dorpe-Nahale. With many businesses struggling to keep their doors open, people are concerned about the Mayor’s decision and are demanding more details, as well as hoping Mayor Kim will reconsider. 

Alan Mattson, president of Castle Resorts and Hotels, also told KITV, “We need to get our employees back to work. We need to support our vendors, our suppliers, get them back to work. We need to bring the visitors back, we can’t continue forever.”

Meanwhile, on Oahu, Tommy Waters has also introduced a resolution to require two negative coronavirus tests to avoid the fourteen day quarantine, rather than just one as outlined in Governor Ige’s pre-travel plan. The Council member is additionally looking to postpone the reopening of our islands until a later date.

However, Lieutenant Governor Josh Green has called the proposed two test system “misdirection and fear mongering” and estimated only 1 in 1000 travelers with coronavirus would slip through the one test pre-travel system. Dr. Darragh O’Carroll, a certified emergency physician, has refuted this statistic though, stating that it was more likely that 4 in 1000 people would make it through. This would mean approximately 960 infectious people would come into Hawaii per month, a number none of our islands are prepared to manage. 

Dr.Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, recently spoke with Lieutenant Governor Josh Green regarding Hawaii’s reopening plan, but even he did not have a definitive answer to the state’s dilemma. 

“The reality is no matter what you do, there are going to be infected people who slip through the cracks,” Fauci stated.

Only time will tell whether the decision to reopen Hawaii on October 15th is the right one, but all we can do for now is continue to wear our masks, keep our distance, and do our best to stay safe during these tumultuous times.