Gov. David Ige’s plan to lift the mandatory 14- day quarantine required of overseas arrivals to Hawaii for those who can produce a negative coronavirus test has been pushed back another month to September.
The Governor with support of mayors earlier in July expressed confidence that the quarantine would be lifted starting August 1, 2020. But just this week, to the surprise of many, Ige cancelled this plan citing concerns of the spread of the coronavirus on the mainland, specifically in states like California with sizable Hawaii-bound tourists.
While the governor’s reason for the delay – public health and safety – is a legitimate reason for the delay. He needs to be much clearer and explain specifically what safeguards the state is working on, what benchmarks need to be met in order for the quarantine to be lifted. Simply, citing that certain tourist markets do not have the coronavirus under control does not give Hawaii residents, unemployed hotel workers, and small businesses desperate to reopen tourism the information they deserve.
If the reason for the delay is that COVID-19 is spreading on the mainland, then based on just that alone, the quarantine, then tourism, will not be reopening until a vaccine is available.
Many in the Filipino community are hotel workers. Filipinos are disproportionately affected by tourism’s decline and the quarantine. Many in our community are struggling financially and want to work. We deserve a much better explanation than what was given. We deserve specific answers.
State officials have taken calculated, slow, cautionary moves before reopening the state with as many safeguards in place. This should be applauded because it has kept low Hawaii’s rate of infections and death.
We know that other states that rushed to “business as usual” are experiencing comparatively disastrous results and now find themselves in a position to scale back areas that were prematurely opened. So, most of us understand the value of prudence.
But Ige’s lifting of the ban doesn’t’ have to mean abandoning caution altogether. The new policy announced earlier in the month — requiring that visitors who can provide proof of a negative test taken within 72 hours of their arrival and that those who cannot still be required to abide by the mandatory 14-day quarantine – was and is a step in the right direction. There are also still other precautionary measures needing to be worked on. The public gets that and supports that.
But state officials waiting for the perfect scenario before reopening can be approved will keep delaying the lifting of the quarantine. Risks in opening up the state will always exist and that perfect scenario will not come until the virus is eradicated.
Hawaii’s scope for testing and contacting tracing, and most importantly, capacity to care for COVID-19 cases can be improved, fine-tuned. But how much more time does the state need for these safeguards to be ready?
It’s a difficult position to be making these hard decisions that will impact public health. Especially knowing that in all likelihood, there will be more coronavirus cases after the state decides finally to lift the quarantine.
But many in the community are in agreement that something major needs to be done to slap the state’s languid economy back to life. And it begins with lifting the quarantine. Certainly the state’s overreliance on tourism and lack of economic diversity have made moves to reopen more urgent.
We can do our part in stopping the spread of the virus
As the state begins to rejoin the nation in easing restrictions to conduct business, it becomes more critical that Hawaii residents and tourists wear a facemask in public, practice social-distancing, wash hands frequently and do all the known measures to keep the virus from spreading. We can do our part in keeping infections low. Then perhaps state officials could also have more confidence to get back to business as usual.
New Findings on COVID-19
Important updates on the virus itself — a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that under the right conditions, liquid droplets from sneezes, coughs and just exhaling can travel more than 26 feet and linger in the air for minutes.
“There is no virtual wall at this 3- to 6-feet distance” says Lydia Bourouiba, the study’s author, who specializes in fluid dynamics and is an associate professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The recommended 6-feet distance that most people have been following is proven to be less effective than thought as this latest study shows.
Knowing this, key to helping stop the spread is proper ventilation. Dr. Julian W Tang, one of the authors of the paper, said, “Based on multiple studies done by the authors, we believe that optimized ventilation is the way to move forward, removing the virus from the air before people inhale it. We think that’s one of the main ways it’s transmitted.”
In yet another study, experiments show that the virus can survive on surfaces such as plastic and stainless steel for up to three days. This is where frequent handwashing is vital.
The new findings on COVID-19 reveal in part why the virus has been able to spread so quickly and exponentially. We support the governor’s last-minute decision, but we need more transparency and candor.