It’s tempting to think that the new coronavirus is pau.
There are signs popping up in the community that things are normal, or closer to normal than they have been in months. There’s toilet paper for purchase in the stores. There is a political candidate sign-waving out on Kalanianaole during pau hana traffic. And yes, there’s some pau hana traffic. Businesses are starting to reopen, and some people are getting back to work.
People can get their hair cut again. Friends can sit at a table in a restaurant and have a meal together. Families can go to the beach without worrying about being cited for sitting on the sand. Even the water park is open. It feels like the worst is over.
But, of course, the virus isn’t pau, and the worst isn’t over just because it feels less panicky out in the world.
The daily count of new coronavirus cases in Hawaii has been rising from the numerous zero-case days we had in the end of May, and though Lt. Gov Josh Green has been saying on his daily Facebook updates not to worry, it’s something to keep in mind. The virus is still out there.
People may not be freaking out about wiping down groceries anymore (if you’re still doing it, nobody is judging you, so feel free to carry on), but being careful is something we’ll have to continue, and not just long enough to get the bars and gyms open.
It’s amazing to think of all the high-risk behaviors we used to do every day before we became virus- aware. How many times did you rest your hands on the moving handrail of an escalator in the mall and then casually scratch your face? How often did you take your hand out of a snack bag of Doritos to push the elevator button, and then resume eating without thinking of possible contamination? All those casual hugs. All those community bowls of popcorn at the office. All those buffets with hundreds of people dipping into the vat of teri chicken using the same serving spoon. All the days you went to work sick thinking that was the valiant thing to do. All the things we did casually and carelessly will have to be re-engineered.
The tricky part now is how to balance being careful with trying to restart and rebuild the economy.
The pressure to bring tourists back with no cumbersome 14-day quarantine is intense, but there is no authoritative rule book to follow, no definitive answers, only best guesses and discussions about risk versus reward. That is true not only for tourism, but for other businesses, for schools, for theaters, sporting events, just about everything. There’s a sense in the community that patience is running low and people just want definitive decisions and dates, but the coronavirus isn’t cooperating. It’s hard to deal with so much uncertainty, but pretending that the pandemic is pau or is somehow less of a threat isn’t better.