Kauai and neighbor-islands poised to lead economic recovery

“Essentially, economists say, there won’t be a fully functioning economy again until people are confident that they can go about their business without a high risk of catching the virus.” New York Times April 6, 2020.

A high bar to overcome, with new cases of COVID-19 being reported daily through-out Hawai‘i. For the City and County of Honolulu and its 1,000,000 residents living in relatively dense urban communities, the challenge to reach this threshold is significantly greater than the other three less populated, neighbor-island counties.

Thus Kaua‘i, Maui and Hawai‘i County could, in fact, lead the way in terms of both protecting health and restarting the economy. Oahu, of course, will also get to the same place, but primarily because of the larger population, it will likely take longer to do so.

Step one for all islands is to eliminate the spread of the virus. Thankfully, the flow of incoming travelers has slowed to a trickle and police are increasing enforcement of the 14-day quarantine. We need to take the next step and basically lock our islands down.

If we show the discipline and commitment needed, we can, in fact, stop the virus. But we must do better and avoid going out, period. Running errands because we are bored, is not acceptable – we must only go out when it’s absolutely required – as in urgent.

So first we aim for zero. No new cases of COVID-19 are the goal. In order to even start a gradual reopening of businesses, we must slow the spread and reverse the trend.

To get to zero and stay there we must also further tighten requirements for all incoming travel. With the coming availability of the FDA approved Abbott laboratories “15 minute test”, every incoming traveler regardless of their point of origin should be tested (either prior to their point of origin departure or upon arrival). This is the same test taken by President Trump and the same test currently being deployed widely in Detroit Michigan.

With an approximate population of fewer than 75,000 people on Kaua‘i, 160,000 on Maui and just over 200,000 on the Big Island of Hawai‘i – and with increasing testing capacity, soon we should be able to test virtually 100% of neighbor-island residents. Oahu, with a population of about 1,000,000 people, represents a much greater logistical challenge.

Think about it. When any island can get to zero spread (or statistically as close to zero as is possible), and testing of travelers is mandated, then all businesses on that island can reopen and residents can go back to hugging, high-fiving and shaking hands with family, friends, and neighbors.

That island or islands then becomes the most valuable visitor destination on the planet that people cannot come to unless they first “test negative”.

According to a report recently released by the University of Hawai‘i Economic Research Office (UHERO):

“Tourism could resume quickly if two necessary conditions are met: (1) Potential tourists perceive Hawai‘i to be a safe place to visit and (2) Hawai‘i residents can be assured tourists are free of the coronavirus.

The first condition could be satisfied sometime this summer if Hawai‘i builds on its already considerable achievements by moving ahead with the testing, contact tracing, isolation, and mask policies recommended in this report.

The second condition could also be satisfied this summer if rapid antigen and antibody tests become readily available to people wanting to vacation in Hawai‘i. Travelers will take a rapid antigen test within a day of boarding their flight to confirm that they do not carry the coronavirus.

A second antigen test might be required in Hawai‘i within a day of the passenger’s flight home…Abbott Labs is currently rolling out an antigen test that provides results within 5-15 minutes…It is possible, but far from certain, that Hawai‘i will become particularly attractive as a vacation destination later this year if it is one of the first global visitor destinations to have its epidemic under control.” Read the entire UHERO Report. https://tinyurl.com/t8ulusc

The UHERO report is important reading and focuses on the entire state of Hawai‘i. The reality though is that the neighbor-islands have the ability to reopen their economies independently of Oahu and each other. With a population of only 75,000 people, a Mayor who has been particularly assertive in enforcing the “stay at home” orders, and the potential introduction of “15 minute” airport testing – Kaua‘i County is in a unique position to lead.

Our Kaua‘i community can and must pull together to make this happen.

As hard as it is, we must continue to stay home. Our government leaders must work together with the medical community and with the airline and travel industry to make this happen, sooner and not later.

*Mahalo to Tim Brown (EWC epidemiologist) Sumner La Croix (Ph.D. Economics) for the UHERO report, and to Kaua‘i resident Steve Lauryn for bringing the entire discussion to my attention.


Gary Hooser formerly served in the Hawai‘i State Senate, where he was Majority Leader. He also served for eight years on the Kaua‘i County Council and was the former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. He serves presently in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawai‘i Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) and is executive director of the Pono Hawai‘i Initiative.

  1. arbitrary April 8, 2020 2:43 am Reply

    i personally has been screen shotting every nasty/rude post done by kauai/hawaii residents and showing to everyone i know in life and online in order to spread awareness of the hate island residents have for visitors or anyone of lighter skin color for that matter, so if I in any kind is helpful to delay the onset of incoming tourism in order to preserve the resident’s safe place i am very happy.

  2. KHSGRAD April 8, 2020 5:40 am Reply

    No Marshall Law declared- this is a violation of my constitutional rights….

    1. Citizen Cane April 9, 2020 2:14 am Reply

      Testing would be the key, and with advances including the development of self-test kits and rapid-results tests, such goals may be realistic—and in any case can provide a much needed glimmer of hope. No one would want to endure a repeat of the effort and sacrifices involved in getting there. But everyone wants life to begin again.

    2. Michael Mann April 11, 2020 10:15 am Reply

      Are you referring to the “Marshall Plan?” The Marshall Plan is not a violation of your Constitutional rights. That was a WWII era program to help Europe recover.

      Nor is MARTIAL law, for that matter. And no martial law has been imposed here or even discussed.

      KHS grad, huh?

  3. randy kansas April 8, 2020 6:32 am Reply

    the homeless and full time “campers” in the hills and valleys, also need to be tested;

    some of them mentally too;

    how do we round them up ?

  4. WaimeaResident April 8, 2020 7:01 am Reply

    Eye roll… Pipedream. Not so easy.

    We may all be ‘safe’, but we’re screwed. The economy isn’t just going to bounce back on Kauai. Obviously.

    The virus also isn’t going to just disappear. The bottom line of all of this.

    The socialists like Gary are almost giddy with the lions share of the private sector now beholden to the government. Reliant. Entitled.

    Good luck with your pet project budgets and meeting your pension requirements!

    1. Michael Mann April 11, 2020 10:33 am Reply

      I will be the first person to say Gary Hooser is not all there and that I have never supported him. Expecting that somehow we are going to be able to force people to take a virus test BEFORE they board a plane to Hawaii is, in and of itself, patently ridiculous. I don’t understand why so many people, apparently on both sides of the political aisle, can’t grasp the very simple concept that state and local governments have ZERO authority to limit interstate travel.

      Get this through your skulls, people…when Hawaii successfully secedes from the United States of America and becomes a sovereign nation, THEN it will have the authority to enact such restrictions. Not before. This is not a difficult concept to understand.

      However, this idea that “socialists…are almost giddy with the lions share of the private sector now beholden to the government. Reliant. Entitled.” is simply irresponsible partisan rhetoric. I wonder…how many of you who run to this “Socialism” argument every chance you get are going to turn down this Socialist-style, government handout CHECK that is supposedly coming? Unless you can tell all of us that you are going to refuse this check, or you are going to donate all of it to some charity, I’m afraid you are being hypocritical with this “Socialism” nonsense. Apparently, it’s all OK as long as you are the one benefiting from the Socialism.

      Please let us all know what you plan to do with that check so as to not be part of the Socialist agenda. And don’t try to argue that it isn’t a “Socialist handout” simply because you are a taxpayer–that argument will not fly. That money was not intended for this purpose. It is money being TAKEN from something else and GIVEN to you for no reason other than to “help” you.

      1. Citizen Cane April 13, 2020 10:37 pm Reply

        Mr Mann—sorry but I disagree w/ your assessment that no one would be willing to be screened in order to come here, during the transition to full economy. Plenty have been willing to come only to endure 14 days stuck in their hotel rooms. Plenty would likely welcome the escape from places further behind in the transition, and the first of the “safe” destinations might also benefit from pent up demand from those travelers of means. Read the UHERO report. It would appear testing needs to be done prior to departure to prevent most after-arrival cancellations. The proliferation of self- testing could facilitate the process. Even if you think this plan is premature, Kauai has been ahead of the curve and with sufficient effort could achieve its transition sooner than much of the US, and before most of the other islands.

  5. lisa cook April 8, 2020 9:33 am Reply

    Pump the brakes Hooser. Please see the 1918 Spanish flu graph. The reason Kauai has so few cases is because visitors are STAYING AWAY. If the flood gates are all the sudden open we are going to be New York; but with no resources. The economy won’t function if half the population dies.

    1. Michael Mann April 11, 2020 10:40 am Reply

      The decrease in tourism is only part of the reason. The virus is already here, some of the people who brought it here were residents returning home from places like Las Vegas, and we have evidence of non-travel related infections. The stay-at-home order, curfew, and social distancing measures are also responsible for the relatively low number of cases.

      But you are 100% correct that the economy will collapse if half the population dies. I think it would likely collapse if even 10% of the population died over a short period. People trying to get us out of this social distancing phase too soon are serious threats to the health and stability of this community, and need to be called out on it.

  6. Uncleaina April 8, 2020 10:27 am Reply

    Gary did you become a public health expert? Or are you still an ex-elected politician? There’s just so many problems with your idea – but let me point out a couple. You have to have antigen testing of the entire island first. Otherwise you’ll have asymptomatic people spreading it. Then in your fantasy, we’d have trained clinical labs technicians performing blood tests while at the mainland airports? Really? If you find a positive person what do you do? How do you know they didn’t just infect everyone in line? It takes 2-5 days for the antibiotics to be detectable – so you’d miss every single recent person. And also it can’t distinguish between people who have the virus and people who HAD the virus and are now immune. And the rapid qRT PCR test has a set of different problems. I did molecular biology for decades so I know what I’m talking about. The fact you even wrote this and put in front of the public shows your ignorance. No your plan would NOT work. Why not publish something written by a public health expert instead of Gary Hooser??

  7. Anony Mouss April 8, 2020 12:36 pm Reply

    “…and (2) Hawai‘i residents can be assured tourists are free of the coronavirus.”

    That’s the problem. Even if people are tested before and after traveling, is it going to show up if they just were infected, or if they touch something contaminated at the airport and bring it in that way, perhaps infecting themselves while unpacking, etc.?

    Unless there are vaccines and/or treatments out there, the virus is going to go through Kauai almost overnight when we try to go “normal” again. I’m worried we’re just delaying it, not avoiding it.

  8. Aaron Matson April 8, 2020 3:10 pm Reply

    “Tourism could resume quickly if two necessary conditions are met: (1) Potential tourists perceive Hawai‘i to be a safe place to visit and (2) Hawai‘i residents can be assured tourists are free of the coronavirus.

    Hahahaha not if they have no money to travel with

  9. Kauaidoug April 9, 2020 9:20 am Reply

    Gary presents a rosy future but I just don’t see how much of any thing can be done until there is a vaccine. I do think we need to rethink our island economy concerning tourism.

    If nothing else let’s make it clear to people coming to Hawaii that tourists will pay for any emergency services they may need to use, period. Signs have proven ineffective from tourists jumping fences clearly marked no trespassing

    1. Debra Kekaualua April 9, 2020 7:57 pm Reply

      Read U.S. chapters IX&X Department of Defense Laws of war! Hawaii has been under a weird sort of martial law for 127-years! Gary and all the other politicojudiciomilitarovoto peoples are aware and are complicit? So while you’all worry on the pandemic, there are a few other organized activities that includes a whole lot of similar, top dogs being rounded up for their nefarious activities, as well as, freeing babies, children, adult victims awaiting underground for their traffickers to get them out of the usa! When they all are taken out from these sites is why the ship and other hospital beds have been set up, for they will need physical and emotional reintegration. Finally, Thousands will soon be indicted as is planned, mostly Epstein-types, cult leaders Vatican, Mormon, DC down to those state/county Hawaii folk who sold out their legacy. I love the current ebb and flow! Its like the 60s again. Remove several hundred traffic lights and transplanted vehicles! Permanent closure. You folks go learn how for “cut bait”.

      We remain a 3rd world country, due to the red white and blue who has made a mess here and as they are known to do around the globe! This is all being fixed as i post!

      1. Michael Mann April 11, 2020 10:45 am Reply

        Stream of consciousness worked for James Joyce, I guess.

  10. LTEreader April 9, 2020 9:31 am Reply

    KHSGRAD > it’s Martial Law, not Marshall Law, which has NOT been declared.

    And we’re not concerned about YOUR “constitutional rights” at the moment.
    We are however concerned about avoiding a serious outbreak > for EVERYONE’S sake!

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