Lt. Gov. Josh Green’s daily COVID-19 videos on Facebook have become the most useful updates of Hawaii’s situation. Too many news conferences go on too long, feel unprepared and stumbly, and get way into the weeds on minutiae and special circumstances. Green goes straight to the numbers.
Except the one time he didn’t, and it was awesome.
Every day for the last several weeks, Green has posted a short video, usually just over a minute long, in which he sums up the current statistics on Hawaii coronavirus cases while illustrating freehand on a whiteboard what the “curve” is looking like.
Then he does a dramatic flip of the dry-erase board and, on the reverse side, quickly goes through the numbers for Hawaii’s health care system capacity: number of beds being used versus number available, number of ICU beds, ventilators in use, number of people hospitalized, number of deaths.
On Wednesday, though, the usual rapid-fire, fact-based and generally encouraging briefing had an absolute golden moment, one that may be remembered for years to come for its raw candor.
After going through the hospital numbers, the LG quickly updated the situation in public areas.
“Here we go. Parks, we are OK to exercise in parks,” he said, and he wrote “OK” next to the word “parks.”
“Ocean, swim, surf,” he said, and again he wrote “OK” next to “ocean.”
“Beaches” he said, and then next to the word beaches, Green wrote “WTF.”
Finally. FINALLY! Finally, somebody in local government acknowledged that the rules are confusing, uncoordinated, suspiciously capricious and arbitrary.
Of course, Green didn’t say those things. He didn’t even say “WTF.” His face didn’t show any sort of scorn or derision or sarcasm. He wrote those three letters and said only, “We’ll get there.”
We will, but sometimes it feels like we’ll get there in spite of the actions of local leaders and not because of them.
The utter confusion over whether Hawaii residents are allowed to go to beaches and what exactly they’re allowed to do is perhaps the best example of what the shutdown orders have been like for Hawaii residents who, by and large, really want to follow the rules, get through this safely and support their community.
Gov. David Ige ordered all beaches closed, but then came the complication of state beaches versus the beaches that belong to the various counties. Activities like swimming and surfing in the ocean are OK, but there is to be no sitting, standing, lying down, lounging, sunbathing or loitering on beaches and sandbars, as well as no running or walking on the sand. Presumably, to get from wherever one has parked — outside of the closed beach parking lots — to the ocean, one must follow a strict walking path perpendicular to the ocean so as not to flout the rules, or perhaps learn to levitate across the sand. (Where are people parking, by the way? Check the beach-side neighborhoods where the cars are lined up all along residential streets, another classic case of move-and-hide.) Rules and the enforcement of the rules seem to vary from beach to beach.
WTF indeed. Finally, somebody said it. Maybe that will motivate coordination among Hawaii leaders, maybe it won’t, but it was a relief to many to have the frustration felt in the community so succinctly, and perfectly, acknowledged.