COVID-19, Island Style by
(11 Stories)

Prompted By Pandemic Summer

Loading Share Buttons...

/ Stories

Living in Hawaii has provided us with the unique opportunity to control the spread of COVID-19 by limiting the number of people coming into the state – and for a while it was working. Folks were largely staying home, and they behaved safely on the occasions that they went out for groceries or necessary errands. Airport arrivals were extremely low, and consisted mostly of returning residents. For a while, tourist arrivals could be counted on one hand. We also had (and still have) a 14 day quarantine for anyone coming to the islands. The number of positive test results was the lowest in the country for a while.

Fast-forward to July (2020), and that’s no longer the case. Arriving tourists are now in the 500 per day range. They skirt the quarantine by booking illegal B&B’s – only hotels are allowed to operate right now. They go out to restaurants, shops and beaches with no regard for safety. It’s also common to see large groups of locals congregating at beaches, parks and homes – not a mask in sight. Yes, these might be family units, but they don’t live in one household.

People are burnt-out. Being the social creatures we are, I can understand that it is difficult to stay home. It’s no fun to wear a mask when you’re out. Especially for young people, it’s very hard not to touch each other in social settings. With no end in sight, people are falling back to more comfortable, but unwise behaviors. It’s interesting that we’re expecting a hurricane to pass through today and tomorrow. Normally there’s mass panic a few days ahead of a hurricane. It’s been very low-key this week. My opinion is that this is a known emergency. You can see the track of the hurricane. You’ve prepared for many such instances. This is “safe” and easy compared to COVID-19. Also, there was so much hoarding at the start of COVID-19, that most people are already pretty well stocked up. Yes, there was Spam, TP and bottled water at Costco:-)

Last night 60 new cases were reported. While it would be convenient to blame the tourists, the bulk of our cases come from community spread originating with locals. It’s been one thing after another: Memorial Day, graduations, rallies, Father’s Day, 4th of July, summer youth parties, etc. While 60 cases may not sound like much to mainland folks dealing with tens of thousands a day in some states, it’s a big deal here. And, just like nearly everywhere else in the U.S., it doesn’t seem to be causing anyone to change their behavior.

I’d like to say that things will change in the fall, but with schools re-opening, there’s yet another situation that will spark more spread. While teachers may have a shot at safety while students are in the classroom, as soon as they get out in the halls I think the students will fall back to old routines. I hope I’m wrong.

The aloha spirit does live on, and we’ll welcome everyone back when the time is right. For now, I encourage visitors to stay away from Hawaii and take care of your families. Mahalo.


Profile photo of Live Aloha Live Aloha

Characterizations: moving, well written


  1. Marian says:

    Thank you for the update from Hawaii. It’s unfortunate that there is community spread, although not surprising given that Hawaiians are very family oriented. I know it must be difficult for all of you. Best of luck to these lovely islands in containing the epidemic. I’m so glad to have visited Maui, Kauai, and Oahu last year.

  2. Suzy says:

    Thank you for sharing this picture of how covid is affecting Hawaii. Similar in some ways to the mainland, but with interesting differences. Islands have more control over who enters, but even that is not failsafe. Tourists skirting the quarantine cause a problem, but also locals who can’t bear to stay apart. The hurricane no longer causes panic, because it is a known emergency in contrast to the unknown. Hoping we all come through this safely.

  3. Laurie Levy says:

    So sad that this is happening in your beautiful paradise. I guess human behavior is the same everywhere, because everything you describe is happening in the Chicagoland area, which had things somewhat under control — until they weren’t. Opening bars and indoor dining were a huge part of it, as well as all of the summer celebrations you listed. It’s tragic.

  4. Betsy Pfau says:

    I understand your dilemma entirely. Right now I am on the much smaller island of Martha’s Vineyard. While some, few people fly in, most come in their own cars via ferry boat from the mainland, so we see cars from all over the country on our small island (I say “our” even though I am only a seasonal resident, spending 4 or 5 months a year here, but have been a home owner for almost 24 years, and come from only 90 miles away, so am in the same state). The REAL Vineyarders are VERY upset with the influx of people who are not taking the necessary precautions, as our hospital is small, has very limited ICU capacity and severe cases need to be flown to Boston. We had very little infection until about 10 days ago. Now that the tourist season is really upon us, the caseload is rising by about 2/day. Because the president of Quest Diagnostics has a summer home here, he set up a free testing center at the hospital, so anyone can make an appointment and get tested. That’s a good thing. At least we know who is infected, they can quarantine and contact trace quickly. We just hope things don’t get out of control as more and more tourists arrive over the next several weeks.

    Good luck to you!

  5. Maholo. Your post reminds me to call my dear cousin in Oahu today. Covid brings regrets that I haven’t visited loved ones often enough.

    Stay safe in your island paradise.

  6. Some good observations as to the way we are socially responding to unprecedented situations, while our normal “disaster makers” now seem infinitely more do-able. Thanks for sharing an island perspective. Aloha!

  7. Thankfully it appears Douglas blew by without any damage…if only we could say that about Covid. Having lived in Hawaii, I can imagine what you’re experiencing. Tourism is a mixed blessing in the best of times. Stay safe!

Leave a Reply