By Elpidio R. Estioko
Now, it can be told: Hawaii has a master plan for economic recovery! Lately, Governor David Ige unveiled the state’s three-phase recovery roadmap to reopening the economy. The phases are stabilization, reopening and long-term recovery, and resilience (building a resilient economy).
Gov. Ige’s State Economic Recovery and Resiliency Navigator, Alan Oshima, explained in a Big Island Video News the framework of the plan to reopen the economy following the COVID-19 pandemic.
The guiding principles of the plan were presented by Oshima in a media briefing at the State Capitol. He said the principles to be used are: Be visible, purposeful and authentic; Use multiple clock speeds (i.e. consider the now, next, and later); Cut through bureaucracy; Be flexible, focus on execution; Engage externally; and Adapt and innovate.
“Hawaii has done an incredible job of flattening the curve, but we are also aware that curbing COVID-19 has had significant socio-economic impacts,” Gov. Ige said in a briefing.
“We know that this phased approach will allow us to restart the local economy and bring those who have been recently unemployed back to the employment rolls.”
The state has completed the first phase of “saving lives and flattening the curve” in the community and has reopened low-risk businesses such as auto dealerships and car washes, floral shops, pet grooming, certain agriculture, retail and repair services over the last few weeks. So, we are in the first phase and are working on the second phase. Excellent!
In the same briefing, the governor attributed the success paving the way for phase one to his “stay-at-home” and “safer-at-home” pronouncements, including the 14-day quarantine period for those flying back to Hawaii.
While successful in this phase, however, “thousands of businesses were closed and the shutdown of the tourism industry has left tens of thousands of residents unemployed and losing massive income for the state.”
Hawaii is now transitioning to phase two, which the governor described as the “act with care” period. This includes the reopening of “the kama’aina economy and medium-risk businesses and activities.
“Still, gatherings of no more than 10 people are prohibited, and social rules remain, along with the wearing of face coverings and other precautions. High risk populations should still stay home,” the plan indicated.
At this time of the year, we know that we really have to reopen the economy to bring back the losses we have already incurred as a result of the lockdown due to the pandemic. The country has been suffering economically and millions of Americans lost their jobs and are now on unemployment benefits, which are not enough to sustain their daily lives. Are we ready to face the consequences? Or, better still, do we really know the consequences of reopening?
The third phase involves building a resilient economy with strong businesses and job growth. Hawaii’s economic plan involves economic diversification and the development of emerging industries, the stage when gatherings of up to 50 people with six-foot physical distancing would be allowed.
“At this level, the state will focus on reopening highest risk businesses and activities while remaining cautious,” the plan specifies.
Meantime, people in the know, like the top government adviser and expert on the COVID-19 pandemic Dr. Anthony Fauci, are speaking out their hearts and minds to give the people honest evaluation of the facts confronting the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Fauci testified in the recent Senate Committee hearing on reopening the economy saying that “consequences could be really serious with reopening.”
Numbers are going up but governors are reopening the economy anyway unmindful of the minimum guidelines issued by the CDC. They are relaxing restrictions and apparently, they are being pushed to engage in a major gamble… so they started racing to the top with modified requirements.
Reopening, Dr. Fauci said, could have “really serious” consequences if states reopen prematurely. While the coronavirus will not simply “disappear” this fall, Fauci said the threat of a possible second wave can be mitigated by aggressive testing efforts and healthcare preparedness. He said that the second wave is “entirely conceivable and possible.”
This warning seems to be contradictory to what President Donald Trump wants urging the governors to reopen soon. He announced over CNN his ambitious plan to develop the vaccine by the end of the year. Pharmaceutical companies’ scientists are working on that, but President Trump likewise commented, “I just want to make it clear… vaccine or no vaccine…we’ll be back.” Whatever he meant; health experts are skeptical about the vaccine deadline being met because the coronavirus incubation period takes weeks.
Dr. Fauci added: “There’s no guarantee that the vaccine will be effective.” This is a warning from the medical expert that states could not open too early. Reports show that about 48 states have already reopened. This is a complete contradiction with reality as most if not all the states that are reopening or planning to reopen are either ignoring or relaxing the guidelines set forth by CDC.
Dr. Fauci warned that there’s a “real risk you will trigger an outbreak that you will not be able to control… Go by the guidelines on reopening to avoid spikes.”
He further said the death toll is likely higher than reported. Dr. Fauci said he’s not sure “exactly what percent higher” the real death toll could be. “But almost certainly it’s higher,” he added. Perhaps, this is because those who die in their homes, not in the hospitals, were most likely not reported.
These are the realities happening in the field as attested by scientists, medical experts and local officials but somehow ignored by national administrators and politicians.
As I See It, President Trump needs to do something to boost his chances of re-election considering that the November presidential election is just six months away. Reopening must be the gamble he has been pushing for due to the waning of his support from the electorate as shown by latest surveys.
The consequences of reopening are high, and the risks are costly. Let’s listen to the experts, not politicians!
So, when do we have to reopen? Immediately? Soon? Or, let’s buy our time until we are assured that the pandemic is under control and Americans can begin to enjoy their freedom as it was before COVID-19?
ELPIDIO R. ESTIOKOwas a veteran journalist in the Philippines and an award-winning journalist here in the US. For feedbacks, comments… please email the author at email@example.com).