The coming months are likely to change how we live and work in Hawaii for years to come.
It is obvious now that how we view health and safety in Honolulu is under a microscope.
Replacing surging water worries are questions of does Hawaii have enough respirators for coronavirus victims who cannot breathe? Do we have enough doctors and nurses, enough hospital rooms, even enough face masks?
The answer, according to a flood of experts, is “No.”
Coronavirus may be a new virus and new threat; it comes from a long line of killing pandemics. Perhaps the most significant one was the worldwide influenza pandemic of 1918-1920, killing more than 21 million persons around the world.
In Hawaii, according to research done in 1999 by Robert C. Schmitt And Eleanor C. Nordyke for “The Hawaiian Journal of History,” between 1918 and 1920, 2,300 in Hawaii died from what was called the Spanish Influenza. Records in Hawaii, then a territory, not a state, were incomplete. Schmitt noted that newspaper reports were also lacking.
The Oct. 24, 1918, Honolulu Star-Bulletin printed eight “Simple Precautions Against the Spanish Influenza,” by the U. S. surgeon general. No. 4 was, “Remember the three Cs — a clean mouth, clean skin and clean clothes.”
Still, even in 1918, the list of eight precautions included avoiding crowds, covering your mouth when you sneeze, and the admonition that “your fate is in your hands; wash your hands.”
Today we are all swimming in the wake of coronavirus.
Those growing up now will be known as the COVID-19 Generation.
Hawaii now faces new questions of how healthy and viable a place will be left for the next generation.
Who and what will survive?
Will the hundreds of family-run restaurants make it? What about the major hotels, now showing double-digit drops in occupancy? Hotel workers, food service staff and the others needed to run a modern hotel are in jeopardy.
Add to that the other, now-endangered limbs of the Hawaii economic tree: Airlines, travel services, touring business and general retail all are threatened. When they have no money to spend, the gloom spreads to construction, general retail, even local musicians looking for a gig.
Already there are signs that there will be an accounting.
House Speaker Scott Saiki on Thursday sent a blistering letter to Gov. David Ige demanding he move immediately, to order citizens to shelter in place and shut down the state for the next 15 days.
Saiki described Ige’s handling of the crisis as “utterly chaotic … mass confusion among the public.”
Ige’s communications director responded by saying, “Gov. Ige continues to work through all the options, including their potential benefits and consequences.” But Ige again appears like he did with the Big Island’s Thirty Meter Telescope: weak, unsure and ineffectual.
As Saiki pointed out, state and county actions so far have been “mere recommendations.”
“I implore you to take immediate action,” Saiki wrote. It is a request heard often when dealing with the governor, and one almost always ignored.