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Initiative aimed at providing tools to stop spread of coronavirus

A newly-launched public information initiative aims to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in Hawaii.

COVID Pau is an effort of the Hawaii COVID Collaborative — itself a hui of private health care systems, businesses and nonprofit organizations organized by a subcommittee of the House Select Committee on COVID-19.

House Speaker Rep. Scott Saiki said during a press conference Wednesday that the initiative is designed to deliver “real and reliable information to the people of Hawaii.”

According to a news release, the COVID Pau website — covidpau.org — provides a data dashboard with expert analysis and interpretation, along with personal stories of COVID-19 experiences and a resource directory.

Saiki said in the news release that the House Select Committee on COVID-19 was convened to address unprecedented challenges the state faces because of the coronavirus pandemic, economic recovery and resilience.

“Instead, we’ve witnessed a disturbing deficit in the state’s response to the immediate public health need,” he said. “COVID Pau is vital because the people of Hawaii deserve information and reliable leadership.”

“It’s a critical time in our community and without real leadership really leaning forward, we have a challenging road ahead,” said Ray Vara, subcommittee chairman and CEO of Hawaii Pacific Health, during the news conference.

COVID Pau was designed to fill the gaps identified by health care, business, nonprofit and other community leaders sitting on the subcommittee, he said.

“We believe that when we transform data into information using subject matter experts and making that information (available) to a broad set of people across the community, we empower the community at large to make informed choices about how they can control the spread of the COVID-19 virus for themselves, their families and their neighbors,” Vara said. “In some cases where data doesn’t exist or is insufficient, we should be honest about that, too. … We need accountability from our leaders and we need transparency in order to spur action.

“The bottom line is … we as leaders across multiple sectors have come together to take action where we see a need,” he continued. “We are privately funded up to $1 million to launch this campaign because we believe the public deserves to have good information in order to stop the spread of the virus across our community.”

When asked what gaps currently exist in information already available from the state and counties, Saiki said there are some specific data points the state Department of Health needs to provide, including the location of COVID-19 cases and the activity or event where the virus was acquired.

While it might be difficult to pinpoint those details, Saiki said they’re important because the public needs to have a better understanding of when and where COVID-19 is being contracted and spread.

That information is important to Hawaii’s governor and mayors so if a shut down is necessary, “we know exactly what areas and what kind of activities need to be shut down, as opposed to imposing blanket shutdown orders throughout an island or the state.”

Carl Bonham, executive director of the Economic Research Organization at the University of Hawaii, which is a partner in the Hawaii COVID Collaborative, said the economy won’t recover and Hawaii won’t get back to “any kind of normal” without first having COVID-19 under control.

“And as I said earlier, that depends on all of our behavior and it’s important, it’s imperative that individuals, business and government all understand that and act accordingly, whether it’s not gathering, whether it’s wearing masks or whether it’s providing the information that is necessary for decision making and planning.”

Visit covidpau.org for daily data updates, weekly video content and additional information.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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