Dear Kaua‘i ‘Ohana;
I am heartsick to see so many of our loving and caring citizens so deathly worried about the pandemic, and at the same time we are all watching as our island economy suffers from the effects of the shutdown.
I found more than 100 posts on the County of Kaua‘i Facebook page that spoke of the fear and panic that people felt when they heard that we have (after more than two months without a reported case) eight new COVID cases here on the island of Kaua‘i. People were crying out their concern, and begging our mayor to “please shut down our island again!”
I see a foundational problem in the way that the pandemic issues and statistics are being reported. We are learning only the most dramatic and worrisome facts and reports. Shame on the media and our leaders who are causing people to live in fear. Why are we not hearing much about the very mild cases? Why are the people who had little or no symptoms not being interviewed? People are left with the perception that everyone who contracts the virus will need to be hospitalized and very possibly may die. But this is not the truth.
Can I please offer some encouragement and hopefully calm some of the fears? It is widely understood within the medical community that approximately 90% of the people who contract the virus will have very mild to NO SYMPTOMS at all. The more testing we perform, the more we know that most people (including the new cases on Kaua‘i) have a very-mild reaction to the virus.
We also know that the virus becomes weaker as it mutates. The longer we go and the more healthy and strong people are exposed, the more resilient our population will be. A new case is NOT a cause for alarm. The alarm bells should ring if we have a drastic increase in serious cases or hospitalizations. We need to make sure that we have resources to take care of people, but a simple case is not bad news. Simple, non-threatening cases build herd immunity. Herd immunity is lifelong. Vaccination is only temporary (sadly, it can come with side effects), and never 100% effective.
We do not need to shut down our island economy. We do not need to live in fear. We need to respect those who have very real concerns, and help in any way we can to keep those people safe. Shame on our leaders and government health officials who share only the information that causes fear. They should not be focused on fear. They should focus on the issues that matter most.
Let’s ask the media and our government officials to tell us how we can be stronger and survive this pandemic. Please tell us what habits will make us healthier and more resilient.
Don’t focus on case numbers. Case numbers include all those people who have little or no symptoms. They should tell us the number of hospitalizations, the number of serious complications. They should tell us how many respirators we have available and if any of them are even in use. They should tell us if we are anywhere near running out of hospital beds.
So, who is at risk? Once again, it is well documented (but very rarely a focus of reporting) that those who have a serious reaction to the virus have compromised immune function. If you have ongoing illness, any degenerative conditions, if you are worn out, if you are stressed out, if you suffer from a poor diet, if you haven’t been sleeping — these contributors could allow the virus to progress and cause respiratory distress or related health issues.
Now, let’s look at how we can protect those at risk. We would be much wiser to allow our healthy population to go back to work, allow screened visitors to return to the island, and use our resources from a working economy to support our at-risk citizens. We could work to educate and support immune-building programs. These “Get Strong – Get Healthy” educational programs would benefit all of our citizens, and would reduce susceptibility to all diseases. We can create programs to protect at-risk citizens similar to the early shopping hours, home delivery from nonprofits, and employ more of our faith ministries to make sure that those at risk had everything they need.
Dear Kaua‘i, I hope this makes you feel better. I hope that we can all start to concentrate on what we can do, and start to diminish our fears.
Michele Dillberg is a resident of Koloa.