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A Day of Cancellations Over COVID-19, Hawai'i No Exception

3:00 AM · Mar 13, 2020

Merrie Monarch Canceled, Pandemic Declared by the WHO, and Travel Restrictions Declared. There remains only two confirmed cases currently in the Hawaiian Islands. However, that number is likely to rise in the coming days and weeks as testing for coronavirus finally begins ramping up. You cannot hit what you cannot see, unless really lucky. Looking at how the virus has spread around the world, and more recently on the mainland United States, COVID-19 takes its time spreading before the outbreak comes into the light. It spread for roughly 6 weeks in Washington before confirmed cases began to mount. No one is claiming that Hawai’i is so lucky as to find all cases of COVID-19, especially with the limited testing capacities thus far. Cancellations Events around the islands are beginning to be canceled, now including the prestigious Merrie Monarch Festival. The University of Hawaii made the move to ‘online’ classes due to Covid-19 concerns. More actions that aim to alter social interactions can be expected. The mainland has already suspended this season of the NBA, NHL, NCAA March Madness, the PGA, and the MLB is delaying the season. Event cancellations and closures of tourist destinations are happening abroad and at home, and tourists to the islands are reconsidering their reservations, if there are not under travel restrictions that force the cancellation, like those that were just placed upon Europe. Big Island Mayor Harry Kim has issued a Supplementary Emergency Proclamation to prohibit “increases in the selling price of any commodity", with the goal of preventing price gouging during the COVID-19 pandemic. Reports of price gouging can be sent to Mayor Kim also named a multi-agency task force to head the county’s response to COVID-19 on the island. The amount of test kits that the State of Hawaii currently has access to would provide for ~250 tests a week, with 24-48 hours of processing time before results are available. “I’ll do everything I can do until somebody tells me its not my authority”, said Mayor Harry Kim, also stating that. “I will make it clear here - during all emergency normalcy stops. And some of it predictable, others are not. Shortage of revenue is an automatic thing.” A simple poll posted March 8th on Hawaii Tracker received over 1,000 votes and proved to be somewhat divisive. With the majority in favor of taking COVID-19 seriously, but many are also feeling less confident on the pandemic forecasts put out by the World Health Organization, or on the reaction of various tiers of government, or in how the virus is being portrayed in the media. Outside of Hawai’i The models for COVID-19’s spread around the globe that epidemiologists have provided have demonstrated themselves reliable. Countries like South Korea, and more recently China, have been able to curb infection rates and bring down mortality rates. Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong have robust proactive policies in place that have made them exceptions to the infection models, and able handle COVID-19 well. Meanwhile, Italy has resorted to quarantining the entire country, as hospitals report of dire situations, and cases are exponentially growing by the day. And that is not the worst, nor is China - Iran is the worst case scenario that we catch only glimpses of. The official numbers do not begin to describe the hardships in Iran currently, it will take years to be able to see the true extent of the outbreak there. There are ways to deal with COVID-19 that have been demonstrated effective by health officials and governments. Panic will not help this situation, and most of those that will catch COVID-19 will only have mild cases. Precautions are warranted to protect those most vulnerable are the concern, primarily focusing on the kupuna, which are statistically the most at risk. Hawaii Tracker recognizes the pending hardships facing our island, and will aim to provide objective updates and perspectives in the weeks and months ahead. We are facing another crisis, this one different than that which we have experienced before. But yet again, it will take a community effort in collaboration with government and health care professionals to replicate the examples like Singapore, and not be overwhelmed like Italy. Special Thanks to the Hawaii Tracker core team for assistance in writing and researching COVID-19 over the last few weeks.

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