This letter is in response to Dr. Evslin’s letter printed on your editorial page (Health in the News, May 11).
I have much respect for Dr. Evslin and his work in our community. I was very happy to see his point (near the end of his letter) about the preventable health conditions that cause serious reactions in COVID-19 patients. I completely agree that our very best efforts should be focused on immune-building programs. It makes so much more sense to invest in programs (perhaps through our kupuna programs, in all of our schools and community centers) that would teach and support our residents to build and maintain better health.
Beyond that point, I must respectfully disagree with the other opinions stated in his letter. Sadly, the current COVID-19 regulations and the perspective our leaders are taking toward the needs of our island residents seems paralyzed in a crisis of fear.
One of Dr. Evslin’s first points was “Kaua‘i has done a great job limiting the spread, but COVID-19 is far from eliminated.” We all know from science that viruses are not eliminated. They lay dormant and they mutate. They can be mitigated and be made ineffectual by our strong, God-given immune systems. I am not anti-vax, as we all know that vaccination can be a good tool to prevent some infection. But vaccination is NEVER 100% effective, and it does pose some risk for side effects. As I mentioned above, a stronger immune function would benefit every individual, and can be applied to every person, even to those with pre-existing health issues.
Dr. Evslin’s comment about the mainland posing as much of a threat to us as China originally did to the rest of the world is very alarmist, and it reveals a very narrow perspective. We must realize that there are constant threats posed to our health. We live among those threats daily, and we are all wise to learn to mitigate those threats by our personal actions and by understanding the factors that we can control. Exposure is the most difficult thing to control. Unless we agree to live in a bubble, we are always exposed to outside influences (electro-magnetic, chemical, virus, germ, etc.). What we know about COVID-19: this virus is novel in its easy transmission and the way it can spread without any recognizable symptoms. We also now know that it is an illness with a very low threat to approximately 99% of our population.
We should use that current understanding and the updated statistics to form a more intelligent response to the COVID-19 threat, but also to prepare our communities for a healthier future. Let’s assess those with higher risks for infection and disease, then support and protect them in a way that allows our healthy population to live our fullest lives. We CAN live full, healthy lives, and protect our weaker and infirm citizens, without shutting down our economy or damaging the future for our keiki.
We have recently learned that safer at home has been scientifically debunked, and statistics have proven that incubation in the home has produced the highest number of cases that needed hospitalization nationwide. We are so lucky to live in Hawai‘i, where we have an abundance of sun and fresh air. I believe that is one of the factors that have kept our COVID-19 case numbers so low, even though we are exposed to so many travelers.
Instead of encouraging people to stay home, shouldn’t we encourage healthy lifestyle habits for a “healthy living is safer living” set of recommendations?
Fear and stress have been documented to have a negative effect on our health and vitality, causing me to be greatly concerned about the fear and crisis approach that our leaders have taken toward COVID-19. Let’s move toward a more be healthy, be happy mentality.
Thoughts of tracking, sanitizing and quarantining can make many people more stressed, and add an undercurrent of anxiety to our daily lives.
We do not — and should not — live in a sterile environment. Our immune systems are like a muscle. If we “sanitize” everything in our everyday lives our immune system will actually weaken. Chemical hand sanitizers can kill off bacteria and viruses, but they have the unwanted side effect of also killing off our friendly bacteria (those are the healthy bacteria that fight off infection), causing our immune function to be further compromised.
We know this from the documented side effects of antibiotic overuse, and the rise of “super-bugs.” We need to educate people that overuse of hand sanitizers and attempted sterilization of every surface could set us up for a frightening susceptibility to infection. Our entire population should be paying attention to a healthy diet and determine if they should supplement their diet with quality probiotics.
Regarding our visitor-based economy, let’s ask ourselves, can we find ways to welcome our visitors in a safe way? We can look to the example of people bringing their pets into our state. We found out that the drastically long quarantine that we used to require was not necessary. We also need to ask: Is this risk our visitors impose more serious than the risks caused by the economic devastation to our businesses?
We need to view all of the recommendations Dr. Evslin wrote about in light of a more realistic assessment of the risk of infection. If the infection, after more documentation, proves to be a very low risk to the population at whole, wouldn’t it be wiser to put into place more support and protection for our vulnerable citizens? I think we would all be happy to allow our kupuna and health-compromised individuals to get special privileges like special shopping hours, etc., while they stay at home and receive any necessary benefits and support needed. This would be so much more efficient and effective. Save the people at risk and let our healthy residents live full and unrestricted lives.
We all need to assess how the drastic proposals to reduce tourism and the fear-based presumptions could limit our lives and our opportunities.
I do agree with Dr. Evslin that our island would benefit from a reassessment in regard to our overdependence on tourism. We all would like to see more affordable housing, and more food grown on this island, but we also need to realize that these objectives can only be achieved by a healthy economy. We need to get our island back to work, and we need to apply our tax money in ways that will help us accomplish these important goals.
But let’s be careful and not try to impose “a new world order” based on this virus fear. We are inhabitants of a beautiful island, with gifts and experiences that are valuable to our world. I am not opposed to limiting tourism to make sure that our island ecology and community are not harmed, but that planning needs to be well thought and implemented over time. We need to bring back our local businesses to be sure that our island residents and our keiki have the opportunities that they were promised before this crisis began and, with that mindset, we can begin to plan for a healthier future.
With respect and appreciation.
Michele Dillberg is a resident of Koloa.