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Letters for Tuesday, February 23, 2021

A COVID analogy

You have a beautiful horse and one day while riding, a disheveled man approaches you on a sickly horse and asks “Will you trade horses with me?” You reply, “Of course not, sir. Your horse is ill and can barely walk”. The man then waves behind himself to show a long line of sick and dying horses. “OK, well how many of my horses do you want in exchange for your fine steed?” Shocked by such a terrible offer you say, “None! And be gone!” – and you ride quickly away.

Later you ponder the question: how many sick horses *would* you need for your healthy horse?

Oh, whoops – I’m sorry. Got pretty deep into the analogy thing there. The point of this letter is supposed to be about HB1286. You know, horses / tourists / COVID community spread. Figure it out.

John Patterson, Kapaa

Mayor reconsider your timeframe

Dear Mayor Kawakami: Thank you for your recent statement about more fully reopening Kauai to visitors. And thank you for keeping Kauai safe over the long year of this pandemic.

It is clear that you see how the terrain is changing with regard to Covid. For the past year in Hawaii, 100 cases of Covid has meant roughly 8 hospitalizations, and one to two deaths. Your strategy of catching a spike in cases before it gets a foothold has proven effective in controlling the spread on Kauai.

For the entire length of this pandemic, more cases has meant more deaths. Because of this, the focus on Kauai has always been to avoid cases.

Now, as you noted, vaccines have begun to change the picture.

We have already given over 19,000 shots to Kauaians. In the next month or so we will have vaccinated all of our most at-risk population. Taking the most vulnerable out of the Covid equation through vaccination changes the calculation. It is important to realize that even now, here on Kauai, the old 100/8/1-2 rule of cases/hospitalizations/death is no longer valid because many of those who were at-risk have already been protected.

Staying with the quarantine protocol until we have vaccinated the vulnerable is understandable. But once these people are vaccinated, waiting longer to reopen as we inoculate otherwise healthy people causes more pain and suffering than it gains in social benefit. There is no reason to wait while we vaccinate healthy waiters or front desk staff that do not have comorbidities.

We certainly don’t want people to get Covid, but a balance must be struck to allow for some Covid cases that are unlikely to result in serious illness or death so that our visitor industry can get back to work. With vulnerable people vaccinated, more cases no longer guarantees more deaths.

You said you expect Kauai to rejoin the Safe Travels Program sometime in “late spring.”

Visitors are unlikely to book vacations here until we actually rejoin the Safe Travels Program. Reopening in late spring means missing most June visitor traffic, which is at least 1/3 of our busy summer revenue. And we badly need that business.

Those of us in the visitor industry are desperate. Once the most vulnerable are vaccinated, we should move to rejoin the Safe Travels Program. A target date of late March or early April would allow for vaccinations of all the vulnerable while allowing a safe reopening. It would allow visitors time to plan travel here, and prove to the market that we are truly open again.

Reopening later than April adds no substantial safety benefit and will only result in more economic pain in our community. Please reconsider your timeframe for rejoining the Safe Travels Program.

Michael McGinnis, Kapaa
Source: The Garden Island

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