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No Ka Oi Health

To be completely healthy doesn’t just mean to be physically healthy and free of disease or infection. To be healthy also means to be balanced with mental, emotional and financial health.

These trying times during the COVID-19 pandemic are challenging many of us in at least one aspect of health, including fear of becoming ill, challenges with being separated from family and friends, and financial insecurity as many have lost employment and income.

Further, all over the world, people are showing signs of not wanting to wear face coverings and physically distance themselves. This decrease in prevention is resulting in some states returning to a stricter lockdown again. I see this fatigue in people on Maui as well. As Maui has mostly been doing well with low numbers of COVID-19 cases, many of us have been looking for a sense of normalcy and have been “dropping our guard” with prevention. Some people have even gone back to pre-COVID-19 normal, getting together in large groups, not physically distancing, and not wearing face coverings while in public. However, as the pandemic continues with the probability of continuing for a very long time worldwide, we need to be diligent in prevention efforts, so that Maui can persevere healthy and strong. Not just physically strong and free of infection, but also mentally, emotionally and financially strong!

The truth is that for Maui to be completely healthy, including economically healthy, we need to be able to open up to visitors. Maui is dependent on visitors for much of our income. While the U.S. currently has a 13 percent unemployment rate on average, Maui’s unemployment rate is approximately 35 percent. We need our employment back so we can pay our rent or mortgage and feed our families. We also need employment so we can retain normalcy, purpose, and mental and emotional health. This is only going to happen if we continue to practice prevention against spreading COVID-19.

Due to increased COVID-19 cases on Oahu as well as other U.S. states, Gov. David Ige announced the state’s delay in dropping the transpacific travel quarantine. While protecting Hawaii from COVID-19 infections is vitally important, continuing the travel quarantine also means delaying recovery of our state’s economy. If we continue to drop our guard on prevention, have more COVID-19 cases, and delay reopening the state, the longer our economic health will take to recover.

Continuing with our prevention efforts will also help us to remain healthy as we do eventually reopen our state to Mainland visitors. Our state leaders are working on a plan to prescreen visitors prior to traveling. Even so, as we allow in more visitors, Maui’s risk for COVID-19 infections will increase. Hence, again the need to keep up our efforts to prevent the spread of infections by:

• Wearing a face covering in public areas.

• Physically distancing from others outside of our households.

• Avoiding crowds.

• Cleaning hands and surfaces.

• Isolating at home when ill.

New research has recently found that wearing a face covering protects ourselves as well as others. To gain this protection though, we need to wear our face coverings properly (covering our mouth, nose, and chin).

Remember that if you get infected, you can be pre-symptomatic for a few days or asymptomatic all through your illness. Hence, you may be spreading COVID-19 without knowing it, which is why we each need to wear a face covering in public places — even if we don’t feel ill.

Maui can survive and thrive through this pandemic with grace and aloha. We need to remember our spirit of aloha and respect for each other as a community. Please stay diligent and continue to practice prevention, out of respect to others and in recognition that you value the health of our community as a whole. Then Maui can be truly healthy . . . physically, mentally, emotionally and financially.

If you have any comments or questions, feel free to call Public Health Education at the Maui District Health Office at 984-8216.

* Kristin Mills is public health educator with the state Department of Health’s Maui District Health Office. No Ka Oi Health is published on the fourth Thursday of the month by the state Department of Health.

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