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Covid-19 Hawaii


COVID-19 (Covid) has clearly exposed weaknesses and inadequacies in our economy, society, health care system, and government. Though the worst of Covid may still be in front of us, we can respond to, plan for, and apply what we have already learned from  Covid. We must not allow those who have suffered and even died because of Covid to have done so for nothing. We must learn, adapt, plan, and move forward from the Covid experience better, stronger, and wiser. 
First and foremost, we must get a handle on Covid to protect and save lives. We must take advantage of every available tool from science and medicine including being vaccinated. We must make Covid testing, treatment, and any new vaccines free to everyone. Only through widespread, regular testing and tracing can we hope to understand the scope of the pandemic and contain it. We must be proactive and take aggressive measures to address Covid and stop mass infections and spreading. Though our current economy is tied to tourism, we must put the health and safety of the people first, relative to the economy and politics.

Disparities in health care access, from paid sick leave, environmental quality,  employment market, to housing, have contributed to disproportionate rates of infection and death among communities. Government must recruit contact tracers, supported by trusted local leaders and organizations, to access those communities most at risk. In addition, State and local health departments must use culturally competent approaches to identify people at risk of contracting or spreading Covid. We are only as safe from Covid, as are our most vulnerable groups and communities.

Hawaiʻi must never be vulnerable to a global pandemic again. We must establish clear, consistent, guidelines and contingency plans at the State and county levels. We must follow the informed advice of scientists and public health experts and be prepared for future health emergencies. Government must secure and maintain an adequate stockpile of critical medical supplies, including personal protective equipment. Equipment and supply shortages can endanger the lives of people, including frontline health care workers and other essential workers. Such shortages are unacceptable and should never happen in Hawaiʻi


We have seen how our kūpuna and those with disabilities living in group homes and other care facilities are at greater risk of contracting and dying from Covid. That people with disabilities require additional resources to protect their health, well-being, and independence during the pandemic. Government must improve oversight and expand protections for our kūpuna and residents and staff at care facilities, which have experienced some of the worst Covid outbreaks and subsequent deaths. 

Hawaiʻi’s economy has been devastated by Covid. Government must create initiatives, implement programs, and facilitate an economic response commensurate to the challenge at hand. This must be done to support budget shortfalls due to declines in tax revenues, expense of Covid-related services, and rising unemployment. Government must seek and secure federal funding to make investments in areas that will support and create jobs. Government must not allow budget cuts to translate into lost jobs in education, health care, and social services, fields where we need to be adding jobs to meet the growing needs of the people. 

Tourism is not only the dominant economic driver, it is the very foundation of Hawaiʻi’s economy.  Tourism, for bad or good, permeates every aspect of the economic, social, and political life of Hawaiʻi. Hawaiʻi’s dependency on tourism has resulted in the greatest economic downturn, highest percentage of failed businesses, and the highest unemployment rate in the entire Nation. It is critically important for Hawaiʻi to diversify its economy and support and generate business and industry that are not tied to tourism in order to be less vulnerable to tourist related economic downturns.
Governments response or the lack of it, has been unacceptable. Covid has made it clear that we must take much better care of our workforce, and to provide for them at their time of need. We must look at unemployment insurance system reform, allow workers to remain attached to their jobs, with requirements that employers maintain workers’ benefits. We must expand, not cut, food assistance and security programs that many are relying on during this crisis. We must also make long-overdue investments to upgrade and modernize Hawaii's unemployment system technology to make sure that unemployed workers can quickly and efficiently access the benefits they deserve and so desperately need.
Hawaiʻi is facing an unprecedented housing crisis as a result of Covid with many families at risk of being evicted. Government must take immediate measures to freeze rent increases, evictions, utility shutoffs, and late fees for rent, to prevent families from becoming homeless and compounding the negative affects of Covid to individuals, families, and communities. 
Many of Hawaiʻi’s parents are being forced to choose between keeping their jobs and keeping their children safe. Making child care affordable and widely available is essential to recovering from the Covid pandemic. Government must stabilize the workforce and ensure child care and educational settings are able to meet the highest possible public health and worker safety standards to protect the health of workers, children, parents, and the broader community.
The Covid pandemic has hit small businesses especially hard, over 3,000 businesses have closed or remain closed due to Covid. Government must make significant, immediate grants and loans to help small businesses make payroll, pay rent and other expenses, to keep their doors open.
Covid has revealed many of our weaknesses and shortcomings in economy, health care, food distribution, and government. It has forced us to truly look at our situation, but in so doing, it has also given us the opportunity to make things better. Covid has also polished us and brought out the very best in individuals, organizations, and communities. Caring for one another, showing Aloha, collaborating, unifying and being resilient, Covid has reveled many heroes among us.   
Moving forward, we must look at things holistically, understanding that issues such as economy, tourism, health, housing, employment and quality of life are all intertwined. Government must make decisions based on what is truly in the best  interest of the people and not special interests. The Covid experience must be transformative, returning back to the “Normal” is not acceptable. We must emerge from Covid with a new Normal that is better prepared for the future. We must emerge from Covid better, brighter and stronger for ourselves and future generations.
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