By Estefania Magdalena | Staff Writer
Almost 8 months have passed since Oʻahu entered into the first lockdown. More than 8 months of learning to live in a new reality that is not normal at all. 8 months of effort by all the residents of the state to care for our community and sacrifice for the health of all.
The coronavirus impacted the lives of the habitants of Hawaiʻi in every way imaginable. In the economy, the Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism said that in the second quarter of 2020, the number of civilians unemployed averaged 128,250, an increase of a 582.2 percent from the same quarter of 2019. As a consequence, the labor force had to look for an alternative to survive in case of not being able to apply for government aid. In education, teachers and students have been separated for months, having to take classes virtually, even when for certain classes it is known that it is necessary to be in the laboratories in order to learn.
We have been suffering in a kind of mental jail in which everything is forbidden, everything feels frightening, and we feel vulnerable to the announcements that state governor and the media publish every day.
And after having made all these efforts Hawai‘i has now opened up to tourism, and more than 16,000 tourists arrived in the first two days. The situation is no longer just distressing but frustrating. The people who should be taking care of us are only looking out for their economic interests while the local community has been walking a tightrope for 8 months.
If the world is so bad, if all this effort was to protect the community, now fun is allowed when it comes to the economic interests of the powerful people but not when it comes to the people who have survived on this island day by day for 8 months? I do not understand how the lockdown was to protect the community, when the authorities’ priorities show a clear contradiction by the policies they are taking right now.
All this effort of so many months getting used to living this way to take care of Hawaiʻi and the people we love. All these birthdays that we do not celebrate, those hugs that we cannot give each other, those outings with friends that we can no longer enjoy, those classes in which we can no longer attend or form personal ties with our classmates or teachers at all. So many small business owners praying for the money and time they will have to remain closed, and so many others who had no choice but to close forever. All for nothing.
My graduation will be in December, and I can’t even share that special moment of my life with my friends and ʻohana because that merits a risk of contagion. But 8,000 people traveling in a single day from the mainland to O’ahu for more than 5 hours on a plane is totally safe and relevant for Tier 1.
It is also illogical that visitors no longer have to go through the mandatory quarantine if they can get a negative pre-test, while on the other hand, it is not mandatory to pretest to travel to Hawai’i. As a result, visitors who decided to pre-test to avoid quarantine are exposed to travelers who chose not to pre-test and quarantine once they arrive on the islands.
Thousands of tourists can be seen on the streets of Waikīkī with a festive air, typical of when we go on vacation. It is outrageous to see how a portion of these tourists who arrive do not respect the rules (social distancing, wearing a mask, no groups) to which we were suffocated with for months, with also ridiculous fines for such as sitting alone on the beach or doing a hike. Oʻahu government authorities blame the tourist system and accuse it of not being “adequately educating” the visitors who arrive, when that is the task of the state. The tourist system cannot control what 16,000 people do 24 hours a day.
Now the question we all ask ourselves is until when. Until when are we going to continue sacrificing ourselves and miss the things that make us happy and give us purpose to live, when this really seems like a bad joke that has lasted 8 months.
What will happen when the spikes of infections return to the three-digit figures and are counted as part of the infections of the community? Is it fear to normalize living in an eternal Tier 1 and keep missing our plans?
We are unprepared to receive tourists at this time, nor do we have the tools to face the demand that this requires or the consequences that this will bring on the health system.
The reality of Hawai’i is that the government should continue to prioritize our health and look for a way that we can have a certain quality of life again. It has been 8 hard months for all the people who live in Hawai’i and the efforts have been to take care of the health of the ones we love the most. It is unfair that the economy opens up for tourism when the reality is that the coronavirus has not yet been overcome.