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Not the time to lower our guard

The mind-boggling politicization of mask-wearing hit a new low this week when the governors of Texas and Mississippi abruptly ended their states’ mask mandates.

Flaunting President Joe Biden’s push for public mask use and social distancing to stop the spread of COVID-19, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves rolled the dice on the safety of their citizens and the capacities of their health care systems. We’ll know in a month if these bold strokes give their states an economic head start, or create a Sturgis on steroids that roars around the country.

City leaders and health officials in their states decried the decisions. Some Texans claimed it was political sleight of hand to divert attention from burst water pipes and astronomical electric bills. Biden called the gambits “Neanderthal thinking” and “a big mistake.”

On Maui, officials have a far different strategy in play. Wear your mask or get a ticket.

Maui County police officers issued 68 citations for mask violations in Lahaina and Kihei from Saturday to Monday. The enforcement was part of the Mask Up for Maui County program that started in February.

A visit to Front Street Wednesday found most folks wandering the sidewalks properly wearing masks. There were a few uncovered faces, but it was heartening to see MPD’s message had been heard. This close to the goal line it would be a shame to drop the ball.

Any coach or teacher will tell you, it’s how you finish that counts. Beginnings are easy to be excited about. They elicit jolts of purpose and creative energy. The process is new. Things get done.

Endings are minefields where fragile teams and alliances come unglued. The longer a job takes, the more tedious or challenging it becomes, the more likely it is people will pull up short of the finish and say, “this is good enough.” We’ve all been guilty of settling. Maybe it was a book report that was two pages instead of the required three, or not rinsing the dishes properly before sticking them in the dishwasher.

Quitting on Biden’s national plan to end the global pandemic, shunning the advice of health officials across the spectrum, the governors have settled on a mighty gamble. Here in Hawaii, we are fortunate to have elected officials who are not so impetuous with our health.

Three vaccines are here and they work great. Their rollout has not been fast as hoped, but the pace is accelerating. America has reached the beginning of the end. By June 1, all U.S. adults are expected to have had the opportunity to be vaccinated.

New, more infectious variants of COVID-19 are popping up around the country and this island. Maui has the highest daily average infection rate in the state by far. This is no time to lower our guards like the governors in Texas and Mississippi.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.

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