July 16, 2020
- Traditionally, Hawaii has vigorously enforced health policies to ensure the safety of their population.
- What we see when we look at Hawaii is physical distancing on a macro scale.
In 2019 the population of Hawaii was approximately 1.4 million people. To date, the state has had 22 deaths from COVID-19. Traditionally, Hawaii has vigorously enforced health policies to ensure the safety of their population. For example, due to the state’s rabies-free status, the process of getting a pet to the island is multifaceted and time-consuming. The protocols for protecting the islands from the spread of coronavirus are no less rigorous.
In March, Hawaii imposed a lockdown, and began a 14-day quarantine process for anyone flying into the islands, including returning residents. Residents were also asked to follow stay-at-home orders. Although only tentatively scheduled for implementation (and not until September 1st) the state does have a plan in place for tourists.
Regarding dining establishments, they have also taken a strict approach. Restaurants that do not comply with the guidance issued by the Hawai’i Department of Health will, upon their second violation, be temporarily shut down, or “red carded.” Establishments that incur this disciplinary measure can also look forward to being outed publicly as representing a health risk.
In spite of the relative success of Hawaii’s strict measures, protesters are active there just as they are on the mainland. Also, like other states and cities that rely heavily on tourism, the state has been hard-hit financially. Restaurants, hotels, and equipment rentals, have been devastated by the economic downturn brought about by COVID-19.
According to the Hawai’i Tourism Authority, in 2019 visitors to the Hawaiian Islands spent an average of $48.6 million dollars a day. This resulted in a state tax revenue of over 2 billion dollars for the year, and supported over 200,000 jobs. An economic blow of such proportions will generate ripples for some time to come.
But the good news is significant. As of July 14th, with 6612 tests done, Hawaii has only 1.3 deaths per 100,000 people with only 86 confirmed cases per 100,000. Wyoming, Puerto Rico, and Colorado also have tested numbers in the 6000-7000 range, but their infection and death rates are higher. Puerto Rico does the next best with 2.3 deaths, and 302 confirmed cases per 100,000.
Clearly, in a pandemic the place to be is on an island. Unless the outbreak began on said island. But that is not the case here. What we see when we look at Hawaii is physical distancing on a macro scale. And it has worked. Although the state had a geographic advantage in dealing with this outbreak, credit is certainly due for the prompt and comprehensive response of Hawaii’s state and local governments. While the islands will have economic recovery to address, as will the rest of the world, they have excelled at what should always be the first job in an emergency: protecting lives.