The confusion surrounding this week’s reopening to tourism reminded us of a spaceship plunging through Earth’s atmosphere.
After seven months of solitary orbit, suspended weightless and viewing the world from afar, suddenly Hawaii was hurtling toward reentry, rattling and shaking as it passed through a lot of back-and-forth between island mayors and Gov. David Ige.
Ige wanted arriving passengers to be required to have one negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to landing to forgo a mandatory 14-day quarantine. The mayors were pushing for two tests, one before and one after. On Tuesday, Ige reversed course and allowed the mayors to seek second tests. Big Island officials are mandating a second screening upon arrival for all trans-Pacific arrivals. Maui and Kauai plan to ask for a second, voluntary test within four days of landing.
By not cementing a testing plan until less than two days before travelers began touching down, the state caused much angst for both visitors and the businesses waiting to greet them. Yes, this global pandemic is a very fluid situation with many rapidly changing parts, but it is not surprising the public is saying, “You politicians had months to hammer this out. Why all the last-minute wrangling?”
Throughout this pandemic, Maui Mayor Michael Victorino has consistently prioritized the public’s health over reopening. By requesting a second COVID-19 test for arriving passengers, he hopes to stave off the inevitable surges that have followed reopenings across the globe. The European Union is currently navigating many of these same travel and quarantine issues with cases rising dramatically in places like the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Italy, France and Britain.
One test or two tests, the governor and mayors agree that reopening will still pose risks. They say Hawaii is sure to see occasional spikes in coronavirus cases as travel loosens and more people fly to the islands. Their plan is to limit and manage those spikes as best they can, including shutting back down if this experiment turns south.
They have their strategies and, as individual citizens, we should have our own.
It is vital to know that testing is not prevention. Mask wearing and social distancing are preventions. Washing hands frequently for 20 seconds is prevention, as is working from and staying home as much as possible. We all have read about the demographics of who is most at risk. Now is the time for those in high-risk categories, like the elderly and immune-compromised, to be ever more vigilant.
After a long wait, Hawaii tourism is in the process of a reboot. Whether it crashes and burns or kick-starts the economy as hoped, depends on all of us. By being vigilant in maintaining safety protocols, avoiding large gatherings, wearing our masks and washing our hands, we’ll do our part to keep the island safe and open.