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VOICES: Reflecting on a year of pandemic reporting

It’s been one year since the pandemic started, and through my eyes Kaua‘i has been on an emotional roller coaster while we wait for our turn to be vaccinated.

As an essential worker since COVID-19 started, the wait for 1c is almost over for a lot of us on the ‘aina. I have met with folks from the get-go around the island, so at first I was a bit thrown off by why we couldn’t get vaccinated right away. But I eventually understood the process.

The kupuna, educators, first responders should get the COVID-19 vaccine first.

Having that kind of mindset made me more level-headed throughout this crisis. It kept my emotions in check.

Since the pandemic started, there have been over 521,000 deaths in America, and President Joe Biden on the roundtable in the White House said that, as of this writing, 80 million vaccines have been distributed across the nation.

As of March 6, Kaua‘i’s active cases are at four, and there are 217 confirmed cases overall.

Health experts and government officials are keeping up with new COVID-19 variants, and new vaccines like Johnson &Johnson’s one-shot regiment, which comes with discussions of delivering it to your front door.

Meanwhile, businesses are struggling to stay open or have permanently closed.

I will miss the movie theater in Lihu‘e. I have now embraced exercising with my kids and subscribing to Netflix for entertainment on the days I don’t want to watch the news. It’s overwhelming hearing about the daily breaking news, and it does drain me, like anyone keeping up with the news.

Parents, like myself, are worried about our keiki’s well-being as we wait for the Department of Education to reopen schools for in-person learning. I’m still not sure if I would risk my children’s health for in-person learning or have them stressed out from the overload of homework, with no help in reach as they struggle with distance learning.

On March 5, Gov. David Ige approved Mayor Derek Kawakami’s request to rejoin the Safe Travels program for the trans-Pacific travelers, effective April 5.

As a reporter, I have kept up with the news of every COVID-19 update and important community issues, leaning on my colleagues’ expertise to make sure we are informing our island correctly.

I would do my best to research, just in case my neighbors or friends asked me questions. However, there were times, when it was confusing — especially when the state and county policies and mandates kept changing. But it has been and continues to be our responsibility to get it right.

I have family and friends who want to visit me from the mainland, but I am not sure if I want to take that risk. I miss them, though, but protecting my family is my first priority.

On the brighter side, I have seen many nonprofits and businesses giving back. Food distributions are consistent, and families are being fed on a weekly basis.

With the third stimulus-relief package, there will be more good news to come, and federal funds to help with rental assistance, educational needs, and even low-priority projects like the O‘ahu rail. Thanks to legislators like Sen. Brian Schatz, Hawai‘i is getting the federal funds we need to keep pushing forward.

I guess we are finally learning how to be comfortable while being uncomfortable. Helping each other has been Kaua‘i’s strongest suit, and continues to be the motivation that keeps us resilient.

Buying local and supporting local businesses has been a great strength, too. Now more residents are finding things to do while staying at home, like remodeling each room, gardening, painting or working on house projects they didn’t have time for before COVID-19.

Toilet paper, hand sanitizers and masks are available everywhere on the island, compared to last year when the virus first broke out.

Unemployment, suicides and job losses have decreased since the pandemic started. With more folks being vaccinated, there is hope that we are moving in the right direction.

Like many, I am tired of hearing the constant pile of bad news. Recently, the Asian-American communities nationwide are being targeted because COVID-19 originated in China, as former President Donald Trump puts it.

It’s unfortunate. Asian-Americans faced racism for many years, and worked hard to overcome it, just for it to resurface again. It saddens my heart to watch reports on the news of elderly Asian-Americans being physically attacked and targeted by folks who are misinformed. I think it’s time for us to speak out about it.

Being half Japanese and half Filipino, I learned to appreciate both worlds by embracing the good and bad of each culture. I really don’t understand why we have racism here or on the mainland. Having the aloha spirit and respect for others is important to me. It’s what I teach my children, and what my parents have taught me.

No matter what anyone does to you, respect them like they are your teacher. Share the love, not the hate. That’s why when anyone does anything to me, I forgive them and move forward. I don’t retaliate. I also know that sometimes you have to stand up for your rights.

My heart goes out to the educators risking their lives each week to teach our keiki the best way they can. Many of them have kids too, and are trying to figure out what’s best for their ‘ohana. I appreciate all you do for our keiki.

Another issue that weighs heavy on my heart is the houseless issue. Now that the houseless camps are being disassembled, I am constantly wondering: Where is the houseless community going to go?

Then there are my own personal concerns. My two oldest keiki will be boarding at Kamehameha School on O‘ahu this upcoming new school year. Yes, I am hesitant, yet optimistic. Hopefully, we will all be fully vaccinated by then and it will be a safe trip. I am grateful to our county and state officials for keeping us safe for this long.

I am looking forward to watching sports again; can’t wait for that day to watch my son play basketball. But overall, I am just grateful that we are safe on Kaua‘i. You can’t really blame anyone for what we have been through this past year, but I expect us to be on top of our A-game the next time something like this happens. We should know better, right?

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Stephanie Shinno, reporter can be reached at 245-0424 or sshinno@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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