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Na‘alehu Anthony: Native Hawaiian filmmaker leads an effort to provide Hawaii residents with reliable, useful information about COVID-19

                                Na‘alehu Anthony, who runs the Hawaii Covid Cooperative and website. He’s also director of Moananuiākea One Ocean One People One Canoe.


    Na‘alehu Anthony, who runs the Hawaii Covid Cooperative and website. He’s also director of Moananuiākea One Ocean One People One Canoe.

What is the Hawai‘i COVID Collaborative?

The Hawai‘i COVID Collaborative is a hui of private health care systems, businesses and nonprofits formed to address the unmet need for reliable, accurate, actionable public information. We were convened by the Strategy and Communications Sub-Committee of House Speaker Scott Saiki’s House Select Committee on COVID-19 Economic and Financial Preparedness, which he co-chairs with Peter Ho from Bank of Hawaii. Our goal isn’t to compete with or replace state and county efforts, but rather to complement them, filling gaps in information and outreach while creating an environment of accountability. We created COVID Pau and our 5-point plan out of commitment to our neighbors and families — and did so with private funding and donated services to give our community the resources they’d been asking for.

How does the data presented on differ from that on the state Department of Health’s (DOH) COVID-19 website?

Analysis makes our data useful. Experts interpret six metrics most helpful for making daily decisions. It’s one of three things making COVID Pau different: We provide data and explain what it means; we tell real stories about the pandemic’s effect on Hawaii families; and we provide resources through our website and community efforts to address health, social and economic challenges.

As a filmmaker, I know firsthand the power that stories can have to inspire and shift people’s perspective. This approach works in behavior- change initiatives when you understand motivations influencing decision-making. I’m honored to contribute my experience to the Hawai‘i COVID Collaborative after decades of community advocacy and cultural content production.

What are the biggest weaknesses in the government’s response to COVID-19, and how can that be remedied?

In a crisis, people can feel our leaders are out of touch with what we need. Many are searching for solutions to keep themselves and their families safe. Confusion and frustration make it hard for us to act together to overcome this public health emergency. This is why the Hawai‘i COVID Collaborative created a 5-point plan for transparency, accountability and communication. It calls for: 1. A change in leadership and culture at DOH; 2. Complete, accurate and transparent data; 3. Effectively executed testing, contact tracing and quarantine functions; 4. World-class communications with examples of behaviors and outcomes; and 5. Education and enforcement of personal responsibilities. COVID Pau was created to address that fourth point alongside efforts by the state and other community partners, and we’re already seeing high engagement on our weekly newsletter and traffic to our data dashboard.

Our community needs to know that the state has an informed, comprehensive plan. We deserve to know what our health, business and policy institutions are doing and the rationale driving decisions. With reliable leadership, we can earn community trust and participation in a statewide plan. Most importantly, an effective response will save lives and support our people.

How would you rate the public’s efforts to curb the spread of the virus?

We as residents carry responsibility for slowing the spread within our community. Without oversimplifying it, there are two important considerations in public efforts. On one side, we have residents ignoring guidelines during this lockdown. Simply reminding people 10 times a day to wear their mask and social distance isn’t working. We have to give them a better reason to act differently. On the other side, we have noncompliance out of necessity because the support needed isn’t readily available or easily accessible to different parts of the population. When people are worried about putting food on the table, maintaining a multigenerational household, or how to provide care for kupuna and little kids, it’s hard to expect them to stay home or keep 6 feet apart.

The fact of the matter is, a disproportionate percentage of our population is underserved and under- resourced. They’re dealing with added hardships from COVID-19 that our systems aren’t adequately addressing. We have to do a better job connecting them with resources to kokua those in need. There are organizations with infrastructure, activities and momentum to reach vulnerable populations, and COVID Pau is preparing to get involved with supporting these community efforts.

Do you think the state will be ready soon to reopen tourism?

Reopening tourism means returning to work for a lot of struggling residents. Gov. David Ige’s announcement of the Oct. 15 pre-arrival testing program is encouraging and a demonstration that measures are in place to keep residents safe. Testing is one part. Enforcement is another. And widespread adoption of safe practices remains key. An effective reopening plan needs to be multifaceted with overlapping phases, and the ability to learn and quickly refine to keep building our economy while responding to anticipated challenges. This reopening will require everyone to move in concert to keep the infection rates at low levels as we see people go back to work.


>> Title: Director of COVID Pau and member of the Hawai’i COVID Collaborative.

>> Professional background: Native Hawaiian storyteller and documentary filmmaker. Co-founder of ‘Oiwi TV and the ‘Aina Aloha coalition. My production company, Paliku Documentary Films, helps give voice to Hawaii’s stories through documentaries and oral histories.

>> Personal history: Graduate of Kamehameha Schools and the University of Hawaii-Manoa (BA in Hawaiian Studies and MBA). Vice chairman and Oahu commissioner for the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission. Crew member of the Polynesian Voyaging Society since 1995 and more recently as a captain aboard Hokule’a, sailing more than 12,000 miles on the canoe’s Worldwide Voyage, which began in 2013. The resilience of indigenous peoples and indigenous wisdom is everywhere, and we have a responsibility to steward it and secure its place in future thought and creation.

>> Inspiration: My son, Koloikeao (class of 2019, Kamehameha Schools), is in his second year at Stanford University. He is brilliant, I’m so proud of him, and he inspires me every day.

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