VOICES: We need openness, honesty with HB1286

Honorable senators, representatives, governor, mayors, councilmembers;

It seems HB1286 is progressing, but I don’t think it should, certainly not yet, and here’s why:

• It seems to me that HB1286’s progress is being reported widely, so the political stakes are high and proponents will lose face if they “lose.” So people will fight hard and are less likely to let this bill die quietly;

• There is a steady decline in cases and hospitalizations in the islands, leading to a possible false sense of security given the new variants;

• Some 95% of the population, and their representatives, won’t be affected by HB1286 in the near term — they are already open with a single pre-flight test — so this is not on their radar;

• The widespread belief that with vaccine deployment we’re already out of this pandemic.

As expected, the argument seems to be framed as “for and against” — with one side thinking we are being too cautious, and the other side not cautious enough. The “not-cautious-enough side” is mostly on Kaua‘i, an island with just 5% of the population. So they will lose.

I think the only way to stop this bill, if you think it should be stopped, is to completely change the framing of the argument. Here’s why:

• Since this bill was introduced, the CDC has clarified that after travel one should quarantine for several days and get a second test to exit. Their Feb. 2 guidelines are explicit, including not to travel at all. Safe Travels now clearly goes against these recommendations, and will force all islands to do so. See cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/travel-during-covid19.html;

• The premise is absurd. Kaua‘i’s extra steps given its fragile medical infrastructure (three days on another island or three-day quarantine) and stronger commitment to the science is not preventing visitors from visiting the other 95% (by population) of Hawai‘i. Close to a million visitors have since Oct. 15 — so traveling to Hawai‘i is already pretty easy;

• The Safe Travels program is not foolproof. It introduced community spread to Lana‘i and Maui, which had little or no community spread before Oct. 15. Kaua‘i’s data shows clear that travelers seed eventual community spread. Maui opened and went from 1% of the state’s cases to 18%;

• Safe Travels resulted in Maui not being able to keep schools fully open, while Kaua‘i’s safer steps have kept it in the lowest school-opening tier;

• We have the opportunity and responsibility to keep the variants out until we know more. Letting them in may have very significant consequences, as did opening Maui to community spread. So we should wait;

a. South Africa last week halted vaccine rollouts due to their vaccine’s ineffectiveness against their variant. See nytimes.com/2021/02/08/world/africa/south-africa-Covid-variant-vaccine.html;

b. The Brazil variant seems to evade antibodies, may reinfect, and may be three times as contagious. See aljazeera.com/news/2021/2/12/brazil-says-amazon-covid-variant-three-times-more-contagious;

c. The British variant seems to in fact be more deadly. See timesofisrael.com/uk-study-british-covid-variant-could-be-up-to-70-more-deadly;

d. Denmark has shown clearly that there are two curves — the generally declining total new-case curve and the less-obvious, increasing-variant curve. We seem to be in a race against time. See sciencemag.org/news/2021/02/danish-scientists-see-tough-times-ahead-they-watch-more-contagious-covid-19-virus-surge.

And my more-in-depth overview on the risk variants from last week: docs.google.com/document/d/1h4qvddGAHp03YITI-PpcJSx6dhBCPI31rFdUWdUu37Y/edit?usp=sharing.

Comments, feedback and corrections are always welcome. We’re all fallible, but less so when we share ideas and communicate openly and honestly.


Steve O’Neal is a former UN Disaster Response Team lead.

  1. cant have it February 15, 2021 4:51 am Reply

    if the state thinks we gonna have it, they gonna find the visitor on the street being told to leave. They can make any rule they like, its us, the residents who make or break a visitors experience. SIMPLE not honolulu, US. So choose, u gonna have IGE letting the virus in, or you gonna let Kawakami deal with it? OR u goin bus some OLOZ and stand up and tell them to return when its safe. this thing is just getting started……ramping up, and we are in the noahs ark afloat in a sea of covid, i am not throwing ige a lifejacket. or any tourist.

  2. Uncleaina February 15, 2021 9:30 am Reply

    It’s gaslighting. The Marriott at Kalapaki looks like it did pre-pandemic. There’s hundreds of guests. All these people were able to follow the steps to visit Kauai safely and they did. The push behind this bill is the same bunch of rich entitled mainland businesses that want to fill their hotels and restaurants. They could care less about the residents of Kauai; look at what these same people have done to Florida where they DO get their ideas implemented. Look, already about 10% of the islands has gotten vaccinated, as these numbers go up we can make changes, but to mess with a system that has kept Kauai THE safest county in the entire country is more than foolish; it’s wrong.

  3. Doug February 15, 2021 9:47 am Reply

    Great article Steve, I hope you also sent it via comments for the next hearing on the 17th so that the people voting on this will actually read it.

    1. De February 17, 2021 2:45 pm Reply

      No one can hide out forever. What about the people who live on Kauai that want to travel freely, have relatives visit and their children in school more than one day a week? If the special needs kids can go back full time so can all the kids. But, they are only there full time to avoid lawsuits. 🧐

  4. Paulo February 15, 2021 10:35 am Reply

    Thanks to Mr O’Neal for his cogent reasoning on why HB 1286 should not be implemented. His reasons are listed and they are all true. As he pointed out, the rest of the state doesn’t mind taking away our home rule on this issue. They adhere to the “Safe Travels” one test within 72 hours of flying. As if it is good enough regardless of any infection travelers may pick up after that test either at home, work, shopping, airports, airplanes, taxis etc.

    However we know it is not good enough and allows COVID cases to spread withinn to the state. This is the collateral damage preferred by the visitor industry if it helps keep things open.

    Additionally if home rule is eliminated for this, it may in turn be eliminated for something another county may ask for as well. It’s a slope that the counties should be careful not to slip down.

    As for the CDC advising no to travel at this time, the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association has their eyes closed and their ears plugged.

    1. not just lodging and tourist association February 15, 2021 5:05 pm Reply

      -the THOUSANDS of us who have seen our incomes dried up.

      it’s amazing how tone-deaf some are.

      1. Paulo February 16, 2021 9:15 am Reply

        Not just lodging: As if any of us think it’s not a problem for our economy and the job losses. It’s the potential for serious illness or even death for some that we are thinking of. But whether jobs are available have made any other concern moot for some tone deaf to anything else.

        Be sure to read Susan Oakley’s comment below. Be sure to think about those families who have lost loved ones on Oahu or other islands as well as the one we lost on Kauai. Then think about those who will recover from COVID with lasting permanent damage. These are some of the reasons we are restricting travelers to certain rules.

        Then think about this, no one wanted a pandemic.

        Lastly think about your bank account.

  5. Susan Oakley February 15, 2021 6:20 pm Reply

    Aloha and thank you, Steve O’Neal…
    Thank you for your excellent essay and further informative links.

    As I commented on Gary Hooser’s Sunday article, in the four months prior to October 15th when the 14-day-quarantine travel restrictions were lifted, the number of Kaua‘i cases increased from 21 cases as of June 15th, to 59 cases as of October 15th — 38 new cases in four months. In the four months since October 15th the Kaua‘i numbers have increased to 179 cases — 120 new cases in four months. Kaua‘i had a two-week period last month where twenty new cases were recorded (Jan 9-22); over this last two weeks we had one new case.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but here are some Hawaiʻi Island County populations per the 2010 US Census, for computing numbers below:

    Hawaiʻi Island – 185,079
    Kaua‘i – 72,029
    Lanai – 3,131
    Maui – 154,834
    Molokai – 7,345
    O‘ahu – 976,372

    I updated these numbers today from stats on the State of Hawaiʻi website:
    Statewide – 26, 889 cases, 895 in the past 14 days, and 426 total deaths

    Hawaiʻi Island has had 2,216 cases, 45 in the past 14 days, and 53 deaths
    Kaua‘i – 179 cases, 1 in the past 14 days, and 1 death
    Lanai – 108 cases, 2 in the past 14 days, and no deaths
    Maui – 1,947 cases, 198 in the past 14 days, and 29 deaths
    Molokai – 27 cases, 2 in the past 14 days, and no deaths
    O‘ahu – 21,620 cases, 647 in the past 14 days, and 340 deaths

    Per capita ratios by Island
    Hawaiʻi Island – 1 case per 84 residents
    Kaua‘i – 1 case per 402 residents
    Lanai – 1 case per 29 residents
    Maui – 1 case per 80 residents
    Molokai – 1 case per 272 residents
    O‘ahu – 1 case per 45 residents

    Instead of our 179 cases and one death, Kaua‘i would have the following number of cases using other counties’ stats:
    Using Big Island per capita ratio, Kaua‘i would have 862 cases and 21 deaths
    Using Lanai, Kaua‘i would have 2,485 cases (0 deaths)
    Using Maui, Kaua‘i would have 906 cases and 13 deaths
    Using Molokai, Kaua‘i would have 265 cases (0 deaths)
    Using O‘ahu, Kaua‘i would have 1,595 cases and 25 deaths

    As of this writing, the US population is 332,233,588, with 27,692,690 COVID-19 cases and 486,317 deaths. That ratio computes to 1 case for every 12 persons in the US has been infected with COVID-19. One person for every 683 persons in the US has died. The US will surpass 500,000 COVID cases in the next ten days.

    So… I will submit this information as part of my testimony to the State link at bit.ly/37dddPw.

    Thanks again for all your information.

    1. Susan Oakley February 16, 2021 9:03 am Reply

      Correction to last sentence: The US will surpass 500,000 COVID-19 **DEATHS** in the next ten days.

    2. the rest of us February 16, 2021 12:47 pm Reply

      maybe get some testimony from the many who’ve lost jobs…
      you rich elites have made it well known that visitors are a nuisance to your private playground. consider the vast majority of us who actually need to work for a living.
      your inconvenience is our livelihood.

    3. zzzzzzz February 16, 2021 12:48 pm Reply

      miniscule numbers. -what will you propose next, 10mph speed limits? banning any foods known to contribute to heart disease?
      you cannot have life without risk.
      move on.

  6. KauaiRon February 16, 2021 8:21 am Reply

    Do your due diligence homework before you take any vaccine.
    There are significant pieces of this vaccine that are pointing towards 666.
    Why would you have to wear a mask after taking a vaccine?
    Why would you have to go through quarantine after taking a vaccine?
    How do they know you’ve taken the vaccine … there’s an enzyme in it that allows you to glow and be seen.
    Is that not big brother watching you?
    The one thing I would check out seriously is the number of deaths that have occurred to people that have taken the vaccine.
    Do your own homework don’t rely on money driven media!!
    I believe it is in all our interest individually and collectively that we stop and take the time to really learn all that’s going on around us.
    Rumor maybe bad press maybe but I have heard it when you take the shot you will not live longer than five years.
    Please prove me wrong.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, send us an email.