Hawaii News Hawaii residents still back pandemic rules, poll finds By Nina Wu firstname.lastname@example.org Nov. 22, 2021 Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! Heading into the holidays, many Hawaii residents continue to feel somewhat optimistic about the coronavirus situation in the state — even as the COVID-19 pandemic is poised to stretch into another year. Read more Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser! You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription. Subscribe Now Read this story for free: Watch an ad or complete a survey Log In Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story. Activate Digital Account Print subscriber but without online access? Activate your Digital Account now. Heading into the holidays, many Hawaii residents continue to feel somewhat optimistic about the coronavirus situation in the state — even as the COVID-19 pandemic is poised to stretch into another year. In a statewide poll conducted by SMS Research and Marketing Services Inc. in early November, the majority of 408 respondents thought the situation in Hawaii was improving, more than those polled the same time last year. They also expressed overall approval of how the government has handled the pandemic. When asked for their impression of the coronavirus situation, 60% said it was “slowly getting better” while 12% said “it’s just about over now.” When asked about the state’s management of the pandemic, 62% said it was headed in the right direction. The SMS Community Pulse survey, conducted from Nov. 4 to 8, also found a majority of those polled supported the current restrictions in place, including the 6-foot distancing between groups at restaurants and bars, and the required proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to enter those establishments as required on Oahu. The two surveys conducted by SMS occurred in May, prior to the delta surge and height of COVID-19 case and hospitalization counts over the summer, and then in November, a month after those counts declined and had plateaued to an average of 100. Daniel Nahoopii, executive vice president of SMS, said the results from polls in May and this month were fairly similar as far as optimism goes. “Back in May, we were kind of at the same juncture where everyone’s feeling that we came out of a hard spot and now things seem to be headed in the right direction,” said Nahoopii. “We’ve gone through this twice already.” Overall, he said polls show people this year are more optimistic than they were last year. What did surprise him is how much support there was for current restrictions in businesses, workplaces, and public venues. Gov. David Ige has been criticized for his conservative approach to lifting restrictions even as average case counts and positivity rates in the state declined. The restaurant industry has said the 6-foot distance requirement hinders the recovery of struggling eateries. But the poll found 44% strongly agreed, and 27% somewhat agreed, with 6-foot distancing between groups at restaurants and bars. Eleven percent somewhat disagreed and 6% strongly disagreed, while the rest were neutral. More than a third, 36%, said they did not even dine in at a restaurant over the past month. Also, a majority, 60%, said yes when asked whether the state should require all travelers arriving in Hawaii to test for COVID-19 even if they have proof of vaccination compared to 33% who said no. More than three-quarters supported employee vaccine mandates, but many said there should be testing options. Twenty-nine percent supported vaccine mandates, but with religious or medical exemptions and regular testing, while 22% supported them with regular testing as an option. Another 28% supported vaccine mandates with no exceptions or testing options. Twenty percent said the mandates should not be allowed. Jack Barile, professor of psychology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa College of Social Sciences, said the results of the survey were not surprising. Optimism generally fluctuates along with case counts, he said. Higher case counts can also be associated with an increase in anxiety and depression. But the way the issues are framed also affects how optimistic people feel, particularly as the pandemic stretches into the second year. “I think historically a lot of the rhetoric has been around fighting the virus and the pandemic,” he said, “when it should have always been around being safe, changing behaviors, making choices in our day to day lives in a way that will avoid attacks of the virus.” The fighting rhetoric stimulates a fight-or-flight response, and results in chronic stress over the long term, he said. Instead, he said the emphasis should be on ways to adjust our lifestyles to stay safe from the virus. If working from home is uncomfortable, for example, how can it be made more comfortable? If dining indoors is less safe, how do we make dining outdoors more accessible? People also tend to like less ambiguous, finite conclusions — such as that restrictions can be dropped when 70% are vaccinated or that by January, masks can be ditched — but these clear answers are hard to provide with a pandemic. If changes are framed as temporary, then people won’t invest in making long-term adjustments, focusing instead on when we can go back to the way it was. “Case counts can come down, but just because case counts are down doesn’t mean the virus is going away,” he said. “COVID is not going to go away. There’s always a chance there are other variants that can emerge, and there are still people that are not vaccinated.” Persuading the unvaccinated The SMS poll also showed the needle did not move much in changing the minds of those opposed to COVID-19 vaccinations. Sixty percent of those polled were fully vaccinated, while 24% had received a booster. But 11% this time — roughly the same as 12% in the May poll — said they had not been vaccinated and did not plan to, according to Nahoopii. The majority of unvaccinated respondents, 33%, said it was due to a religious or political objection, followed by 18% citing concerns about the short time it took to develop the vaccines, and 15% who said they generally don’t trust vaccines. Others were concerned about allergic reactions, and some just said they don’t want someone telling them what to do. Among unvaccinated respondents, most of those who are parents do not plan to get their children vaccinated. Public sentiment about COVID-19 vaccinations for children ages 5-11, which became available earlier this month, were similar to results from national polls. Roughly a third, 33%, said they would definitely get their children vaccinated, while 14% said they probably would, compared with 20% who said definitely not and 7% who said probably not. The remainder said they were unsure or did not know. Barile said strategies for persuading unvaccinated parents to have their children vaccinated are similar to strategies for the adults themselves. “All the same messaging applies — if you can get your child vaccinated they’re going to be safer,” he said. “Getting COVID no matter the age is still more dangerous than not getting COVID.” It’s important to find local leaders — people who are looked up to and respected — to be the champions of vaccinations, he said. This could be a community member or someone in one’s social circle who has shared values, which is more effective than the message coming from elected officials, the news media or pharmaceutical companies. The vaccinations also need to be convenient and accessible for those still on the fence, he said. The fewer hurdles there are, the better. Overall, Hawaii has done well, he said, and the tighter restrictions “have paid dividends for public health.” There have been negative effects on the economy resulting in job losses and food insecurity, but the restrictions likely resulted in fewer deaths. Of those polled, 37% said they were still employed, working outside of home, while 17% were working remotely from home. Another 10% decided to retire, 6% were temporarily laid off or let go and looking for another job, while the remainder were in other various situations. The SMS Community Pulse surveys are independent, non-sponsored surveys, with a sampling error of plus or minus 5 percentage points. Previous Story Hawaii Real Estate Sales: October 11 – October 15, 2021 Next Story Kokua Line: Why hasn’t the State Library reopened?