A group of local businesses and nonprofit organizations are providing Hawaii residents with real-time data to stop the spread of COVID-19 so that the economy reopens sooner and if it must close that only parts of it must shut down.
Today, they launched COVID Pau, a new website featuring local COVID-19 health data, information and videos of the pandemic’s effect on local families.
The initiative, which is a part of House Speaker Scott Saiki’s House Select Committee on COVID-19, is “aimed at fulfilling the unmet need for public health data our community can use to control the spread of COVID-19.”
A press conference was livestreamed on Facebook today at 9 a.m. to discuss the new project. Featured guest speakers included Saiki, Hawaii Pacific Health President and CEO Ray Vara and Hawaii COVID Collaborative Director Nāʻālehu Anthony.
“We need accountability from our leaders and we need transparency in order to spur action,” Vara said.”The bottom line is that we as leaders across multiple sectors have come together to take action where we see a need. We are privately funded up to $1 million to launch this campaign because we believe the public deserves to have good information in order to stop the spread of the virus across our community.”
Vara said members of the collaborative and their private-sector partners put up the money for the initiative.
“These people just want to help our state and local government,” Saiki said. “They want to help the public to beat COVID.”
Anthony described the effort as “a call to action to say that we want to create change in our community through really good information, through analysis of that information, and through sharing of resources.”
There will be a large social media and personal story component to COVID Pau to help the data sharing hit home. “This is really about storytelling and how it is we write the last chapter for our people,” Anthony said.
Saiki said current Department of Health (DOH) information has failed to provide the location of the COVID cases and the types of activity or events where they arose. Saiki said obtaining and disseminating COVID case locations and transmission information are key to getting the infection under control and Hawaii’s economy reopened.
“I know that it’s difficult sometimes to go back and to pinpoint the location or activity where COVID cases occurred. But it is important for a couple of reasons. One, the public needs to have a better understanding of where and how COVID is being contracted and spread,” Saiki said. “Second this information is important for the state and government leaders, basically the governor and the mayors, so in the event that we have to shut down in parts of the state we knew exactly what areas and what kinds of activities need to be shut down as opposed to imposing blanket shutdown orders throughout an island or throughout the state.”
Carl Bonham, executive director of the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization (UHERO), said the DOH dashboard is “mostly a quick measure of visitor activity, the number of people that are coming into the islands by plane.”
Bonham said that makes sense from a health perspective; however, obtaining an economic perspective requires more real time data. Bonham said COVID Pau will launch a new weekly economic pulse index “that is derived from about 20 individual indicators of mobility, job postings, and hours that we work and even Google searches for COVID so it’s a high frequency snap shot of the current state of the economy.”
Peter Ho, Bank of Hawaii chairman, president, and CEO, said the main difference between COVID Pau and the data strategy that leaders have seen so far from government is that “information flow (to date) has come out somewhat sporadically in a very measured way.”
“I think really what we are trying to do is to use the data to create information and as Naʻalehu described to create a story to help promote appropriate action,” Ho said.
Dr. Mark Mugiishi, Hawaii Medical Services Association president and CEO, said, “One of the key metrics that’s missing is why are people getting COVID —because that’s something that can be translated to actions that change behavior which is at the end of the day is exactly what we need to do. Now, how you get that information about where people are getting it has to do with contract tracing and testing.”
Mugiishi said so far contact tracing has been inadequate.
However, Saiki said “Given the changes in leadership at the health department one of the roles of our subcommittee will be to help monitor the work that the new leadership team will be implementing.
“We are very hopeful that this new leadership team at the health department understands the need for robust contact tracing and monitoring of the public and of COVID cases. I’m sure we will be offering a lot of input on how that system can be improved and implemented.”
Saiki said the expectation is that COVID-19 Pau’s framework will help to project future public behavior and adjust it so “we don’t face a situation where we have to have another shutdown.”
Go to covidpau.org for more information.