I cannot believe, when I look at my FB feed, that FB friends of mine are still planning on coming to Kaua‘i for vacations, retreats, gatherings, etc. from the mainland in the next couple of months. In the midst of a pandemic. Canceling your vacation or event is not about fear, it’s about looking beyond your own self interest, to protect the people of Kaua‘i. Let me lay out very clearly why coming here at this time is selfish and mind-blowingly inconsiderate:
• We are a small, isolated, contained island that can work together social distancing to reduce spread of the virus, only if imported cases from other places stop. You might feel fine, you might decide to risk airline travel because you’re young and healthy and believe your positive vibes will keep you from getting sick. But you can carry and spread the virus with no symptoms. You can import the virus and unknowingly spread it to local kupuna here, or immune-compromised people (like me) who could die, because you were too selfish to reschedule your vacation or event. Grow up and stop thinking only of yourself.
• Health care — Kaua‘i has about a dozen ICU (intensive-care unit) beds, and only a few hundred hospital beds. If you come here from the mainland and then get sick with the virus, you’re going to take up one of those valuable beds. If our hospital is overwhelmed and in triage situation like Italy, health-care workers will give your young self the respirator over an elder, and leave the elder to die. That’s how triage works. Younger people get treated first before high-risk. So if you take the selfish risk of coming here, be prepared to accept that in the event you need medical care during triage, someone’s auntie, or uncle, or grandma, or a young mother of children with diabetes who is higher risk compared to you, might die. That’s the reality.
• Resources: We get one to two barges a week to bring 90% of our food, medical supplies and household goods here. That barge has a finite amount of space available, it’s not like we can order larger shipments. It’s a ship that holds x amount of goods, no more. Right now there are a lot of empty shelves happening at grocery stores, and they are fighting to restock and keep up with demand for families stocking up to practice social distancing. If that barge is disrupted, or we go into lockdown, your “vacation” fun food takes away from families here struggling to get supplies. Also, if you are healthy but unknowingly carrying the virus, your shopping trip to stock up the vacation rental is spreading it to community members.
• Housing: Campgrounds are closed as the county is preparing them to house homeless / houseless people who need quarantine. In the next couple of months, hundreds or even several thousand local families may face eviction due to hours being cut or layoffs. Your vacation rental might give a local family a temporary rental space if they lose larger homes, hotels may be needed for emergency hospital space, the island is in a state of emergency for F’s sake, and you are one extra body to care for.
• It’s hard for locals to say “stay away” to tourists because all of us depend on tourism to survive. Many of us are already seeing layoffs, hours drastically cut, and are scared and worried knowing rent and bills are due on the 1st. We know that telling you to stay home means things are harder financially on us. We might financially sink, lose homes, cars, businesses. We are addicted to tourism here and dependent on it to survive. But we love our kupuna / elders, we love our neighbors and community. We are willing to sacrifice to protect them by locking down if necessary. Saying no to visitors right now is an act of sacrifice and love, not fear.
I promise Kaua‘i will welcome you as a visitor with aloha when this pandemic is over. Right now though, don’t be selfish. Stay home, take care of yourself and family and community where you are. Allow us to take care of ours. We will all celebrate together when this is over, and Kaua‘i will welcome you again.
Andrew Gorsline is a resident of Kapa‘a.