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Looking at the long haul

While we all hope for a swift end to the COVID-19 pandemic, have you noticed how quickly scientists pump the brakes on over-optimistic expectations?

Until a vaccine for the disease is developed and made widely available, experts insist the coronavirus will always be lurking, ready to sow illness and death when given the chance. There has been encouraging news of late about potential treatments that may reduce recovery times and improve outcomes, but only a mass-produced vaccine will truly end the threat.

It’s comforting to know there are many smart, motivated people working hard to find that vaccine. The comfort is tempered by news that effective vaccines often take a decade or more to develop. Even the most hopeful projections for completion of this fast-tracked one are a year to 18 months.

We’re wondering what happens to Maui and the rest of Hawaii if the economic and social impacts of COVID-19 continue over such an extended period. State unemployment already stands at an overwhelming 37 percent and is expected to rise. Do our state, county and business leaders have plans to ensure our people and public services remain secure should tourism flatline through 2021?

How about us as individuals? Do we have a strategy in case our checking and saving accounts start to run dry?

Sobering thoughts for sure, but concerns certainly worth addressing early rather than late. For some island residents, the economic challenges of COVID-19 will be nothing but a minor blip. Whether they are still working or able to live off their resources, they will be fine no matter how long it takes the economy to recover. Let’s hope these lucky folks seek ways to share their bounty, because for many on Maui, the pain and stress have already begun.

A story this week in The Maui News reported that homeless people on the island have been requesting 5 gallon buckets to use as camp toilets. Even in the midst of a global pandemic that has killed 60,000 people in America this is jarring. Buckets for toilets? On Maui?

Our homeless challenge is far too complicated to address here, but according to several service providers who deal with our un-housed brothers and sisters on a daily basis, they have lessons to teach us.

One warns against being a “one-day millionaire.” Her point is, if you’re concerned about finances, better to spend that stimulus check wisely, to make it last, than indulge in an extravagance you’ve had your eye on. She suggests planting a garden and eating more temperately.

Another says homeless people are resilient due to learning to live simply and pooling their resources to live together. He says the middle of an emergency is no time to be selfish.

“We’re all connected, so we’re all affected,” said Maui Rescue Mission Director of Outreach and Operations Abel Garcia. “When we work together we make sure the impacts are not so large that we cannot sustain them. There has to be a balance. This is not the time to focus on me, it is the time to focus on all the humans around me, to ask if this was happening to me, would I want somebody to give me a hand.”

No matter how long this takes, we will get through COVID-19 by being resourceful and working together. Even if that means wearing masks and staying more than 6 feet apart while we do it.

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