On this last day of April, I’m ready to shout,“Mayday!” — not referring to May Day as Lei Day here on the beautiful Garden Island, something we’ve always enjoyed, but in the old, wartime sense, referring to imminent danger.
Mayday! an English wordplay on the French word “m’aider” (help me), is the worldwide distress call via radio communications. Most everyone knows that the Mayday! call used around the world is a distress call transmitted via radio communications, usually on a ship or plane. Mayday! signals a life-threatening emergency; the procedure is to say it three times in a row. The alternate SOS distress call is typically a Morse code transmission via telegraph.
I’ve been flying under the radar since retiring from writing the “Green Flash” columns at the beginning of 2020, doing other work and obeying the social-distancing and stay-at-home rules since they went into effect. But here goes today, back to newsprint: My call of distress (re: island in life-threatening danger): Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! And SOS SOS SOS… about recent TGI page 1 headline news: “THE TEAM REOPENING KAUA‘I,” “Economic reboot” (leads on Wednesday, April 29); and today, Thursday, April 30, “RESTRUCTURING THE RULES.”
OK, I get it. Our mayor has been an excellent “father” to all his island kupuna, cohorts and children thus far, truly making sure by his mandates that we are kept as safe from the true threat of the coronavirus in the form it’s now taking in the illness known as COVID-19. He beat all the other mayors and Gov. Ige to the punch, and look at the results as reported: “Kaua`i Covid-19 Count, 0 Active cases, 21 Recovered returned home, 21 Total confirmed cases.”
Because of this health success, I also understand that it’s time to open up certain activities and businesses that serve our community needs and start people back toward normal island lifestyle — masked, that is. BUT… where is our critical thinking skill when it comes to opening up to visitors and tourism once again? Before we have an effective vaccine in hand? Since when is our economy more important that being coronavirus-free and staying alive?
A quick look at any newscast will show the wisdom behind the Kawakami mandates over the past weeks, part of which made sure that it was highly undesirable for visitors to consider come during the pandemic. Sure, this hurt, since their dollars feed our tourist economy “golden egg,” which supports many folks on this island. A small minority of folks by letter and demonstration balked at their freedoms having been illegally taken away. Somehow they missed the point of laying down emergency rules for the “greater good,” which went beyond the individual me-me-me-and-my-needs consciousness.
If someone really wants to learn more about the reality of the threat of developing COVID-19, an excellent NetFlix special explains the facts behind it. The documentary uses experts in their fields to report how the pandemic was a definite prediction based on knowledge, what’s being done to learn to deal with such viral attacks that “jump” from animals to humans, how the virus “works,” and the exponential factor charted once it finds the way to live within a human being and insure that it passes on to other humans as necessary hosts. You can learn a lot from visiting known U.S. “best” hospital websites such as the Cleveland Clinic and Johns Hopkins.
The documentary presents an interesting chart comparison from the early 20th century showing how the pandemic flu was stemmed vs. launched between the careful rules laid down in St. Louis, Mo., and the careless, late rules set in Philadelphia. Interesting, also, are the reports touching on the current around-the-clock race to develop a vaccine and stem the killing tide — similar to what happened when science and medicine learned how to halt or lessen killer influenzas, smallpox, tuberculosis and other attacking viruses by vaccination.
Now, with the idea that our state and our county are soon to reopen to visitors, I think of how the facts of St. Louis in the 1900s pandemic showed that when they let up their quarantine rules at one point deemed “safe,” then a second wave of illness began. Although that wave never peaked with the thousands of deaths experienced in Philadephia, it continued for many months longer, taking many lives even in its flattened charting.
Thinking critically, we on Kaua‘i are at that point now. I’m not usually a doomsday-predicting writer, however, opening up to visitors right now will no doubt bring on a repeat of such a devastating history, no matter the 14-day quarantine rules. These rules, undoubtedly, will be bent and broken, and they definitely can’t be enforced with the present structure existing in our community.
Think about it: Even if visitors are reported “on the loose” by conscientious hotel and grocery clerks or shop owners and private citizens, the cat will already be out of the bag, as the saying goes. Who knows how many opportunities may have occurred for spreading a latent germ — unknowingly, as the case may be — in the time between a visitor breaking quarantine and being apprehended?
Following this idea, I think of the couple who were reported for breaking quarantine and fined. They were warned at the airport to go straight to their lodging; next, while visiting a Lihu‘e grocery; and then again, while shopping in a Princeville grocery.
Ridiculous. If either were a carrier of the coronavirus, that germ might have been left on a restroom surface, grocery-cart handle or otherwise disseminated into the air before any kind of apprehension occurred. And, really, how can we who live here possibly expect someone arriving on a long flight transfer immediately to a 14-day quarantine and bypass human needs for food, drink and other needs such as drugstore supplies before holing up in their lodging? Not everyone’s heading to a hotel with room service. Also, take into account rental-car agents or taxi and Uber/Lyft drivers, food-service employees and store clerks, and room cleaners and other hotel and condo agents who of necessity come into contact with the visitors, even masked and somewhat distanced.
Until an effective vaccine is readily available here, as I see it, and unless we have a mandated visitor accommodation (an offshore ship “island,” such as in past history?) where all basic needs for them are provided — for a fitting cost, of course, there’s no way we can allow and loose visitors within our Kaua‘i community again without opening ourselves to a second devastating threat wave, a wave far more dangerous and life-snatching than that focused upon with our lifeguard association’s new, stepped-up promotion of beach/ocean safety warnings.
Like pilots who see themselves crashing, I’m calling out loud and clear, Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! SOS! to our decision-making leaders… HELP!
Dawn Fraser Kawahara is a resident of Wailua Homesteads.