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Honor our health care workers by acting responsibly this Labor Day

OUR COUNTY

Labor Day weekend is here. Every year since 1894, Americans have set aside the first Monday in September to honor workers.

This Labor Day, it’s especially fitting to honor our health care workers who haven’t had a moment’s rest since COVID-19 ar-

rived on Maui 18 months ago. Physicians, nurses, epidemiologists, therapists, pharmacists, lab technicians, administrators, housekeepers and more are some of the most caring, compassionate and dedicated people we will ever know.

Throughout the pandemic, we’ve relied on those workers deemed essential. This includes teachers, police officers, firefighters, refuse collectors, farmers, postal workers, grocery store clerks and many, many more. They continue to report to work in person, putting themselves at risk to provide for our collective needs. They are the silent heroes who live the true meaning of kuleana — the responsibility and privilege of service.

How will you honor them this weekend? By behaving irresponsibly or by doing the right things? Let me remind you of what is right:

≤ Get vaccinated. It’s the best way to honor essential workers. Despite ample availability, low vaccination rates and the delta variant have joined forces to fuel a health crisis in Hawaii. Getting the COVID-19 vaccine remains the best defense against the delta variant. Yes, there are breakthrough cases, but they are uncommon, and for those without serious underlying conditions, the vaccine can prevent hospitalization and death.

≤ Stay home. Show you care by staying home this weekend. It’s a bad time to travel off-island or even to drive across town to visit friends. It’s the opening weekend of NCAA football, so it’s a great excuse to stay home and watch the games.

≤ Download the AlohaSafe Alert app. Hawaii’s recent flood of new COVID cases has overwhelmed Department of Health contact tracers. It can take days for notification after exposure to someone who tested positive for COVID. Your smart phone can help. Download the free AlohaSafe Alert app from the Apple or Google Play stores and enable notifications to get an anonymous alert if you’ve been exposed. Read all about it at www.alohasafe.org.

≤ Keep your distance. The delta variant spreads through close contact between people when respiratory droplets are released into the air while talking, singing, coughing or sneezing. If these droplets are inhaled, the likelihood of infection dramatically increases. The risk is higher indoors, so stay 6 feet away from others, especially when inside.

≤ Mask up. The Association of American Medical Colleges recommends everyone wear a mask (or two) when indoors because the delta variant is so infectious. Those with compromised immune systems and the unvaccinated should consider “double masking” when inside a public place. Be especially careful when dining indoors with people you don’t live with. The delta variant makes its move when you remove your mask to eat, drink or talk.

≤ Go outside to play. It was good advice when we were growing up and it’s even better advice now. When you’re outdoors, fresh air is constantly moving, so you are much less likely to inhale respiratory droplets carrying the COVID-19 virus.

≤ Wash your hands. Airborne droplets are the main way the virus spreads, but it can also linger on surfaces. Frequent hand-washing and sanitizing surfaces are common sense ways to lower your infection risk.

When this pandemic began, Maui County’s motto was “We’re all in this together.” We’re still in it together. If we are to emerge from the pandemic whole, we must remain united even, and especially, if we don’t like certain public health restrictions. It’s our duty to protect those who need protection, especially our keiki under 12 who can’t be vaccinated.

This weekend, let’s reflect on why we celebrate Labor Day and remember it’s got nothing to do with beach barbecues. Island people are interdependent. We need one another and we rely on the work and contributions of everyone if we want to thrive as a community.

To the many hardworking people of Maui Nui, especially our health care workers and essential employees: mahalo pumehana for your service. Enjoy a happy, healthy and very well-deserved Labor Day.

* “Our County,” a column from Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino, discusses county issues and activities of county government. The column alternates with “Council’s 3 Minutes” every other weekend.

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