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Hawaii deserves pat on the back

While it is far too early in the coronavirus pandemic to declare victory, the entire state of Hawaii deserves a pat on the back for a job well done. We still have a fight ahead of us, and it may be a drawn-out affair, but things are looking good with new cases at zero or low single-digits on most days.

Thanks to steady leadership by state and county officials implementing science-based policies, and the self-sacrificing cooperation of most residents and visitors, the spread of the virus has slowed to the point where we are preparing to start the next phase of reopening our economy.

With other states moving more quickly to reduce social distancing policies, Hawaii will have data to draw upon as it charts its COVID-19 course. Will Wisconsin’s rush to fill bars and restaurants backfire? How about Georgia, Texas and Alabama? Will those states’ decisions to override health officials’ warnings and move full speed ahead create a second wave more deadly than the first? Or will those states get a jump on economic recoveries that become the envy of more cautious communities?

Time will tell.

By setting up screening stations at airports and enforcing 14-day quarantines for arriving airline passengers, Hawaii officials shielded the state from an influx of potential infections. Every day that the new case count hovers near zero, the pressure of the virus eases. We can feel it.

Wouldn’t it be a shame to throw all that progress away? It would also be a shame to see Hawaii suffer a rash of failed businesses, lost jobs and foreclosed mortgages. Gov. David Ige and county mayors face a difficult road ahead. So far, they have taken a cautious, measured approach and it has paid off. Next up is getting the local economy running in a safe manner.

And then comes tourism, the state’s lifeblood. With a vaccine many months, or possibly years away, how do we safely bring our visitors back? How much inconvenience and risk will they tolerate to come here?

Until there is a widely available vaccine, the ideal solution would be a rapid, economical test to screen airline passengers before they board flights to Hawaii. Taking temperatures and asking questions after they get here is a leaky sieve if not followed by quarantine. We’ll likely end up somewhere in the middle.

Those decisions are down the road and frankly, we’re glad we aren’t the ones who must make them. Whatever Gov. Ige and the mayors do, we will probably suffer periodic outbreaks. The billion-dollar question is, how big will those outbreaks be? As important as renewing revenue stream is to Hawaii, our leaders know a second major shutdown would be demoralizing for everyone.

That’s where the public comes in. By doing our part we can help keep the curve flat. With simple acts, like wearing our masks in public and protecting the health and safety of our kupuna, we demonstrate the power of the Aloha Spirit.

We are going to get through this pandemic. The easiest way to reach that goal is by working together.

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