Reflections on Covid-19, Kauai County leadership and the future

Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami should be commended for his leadership in guiding Kauai County through these past very difficult few weeks. His daily updates have provided a calm, consistent and reassuring message that appropriate measures are being put into place to limit the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.

While I initially wondered about the evening curfew that was put into place, I understand the importance of sending an early message to visitors and residents of the need to stay home. The closing of the farmers’ markets also have raised questions, but I know clearly that these decisions were not undertaken lightly and are constantly under review.

I especially appreciate our Mayor has not overtly criticized or publicly “piled on” Governor Ige, second-guessing as to whether or not his decision-making has been aggressive enough. Whether or not such criticism is deserved, there is a point when this type of conversation is not helpful and in fact, is counter-productive. I believe that we crossed this point a few days ago.

Moving forward is where our collective energy should be focussed. What do we do next?

A huge infusion of economic support is coming very soon to local residents and businesses. The State Department of Labor is working 24/7 to manage the influx of unemployment insurance requests and has announced all applications will be “backdated” to compensate for the temporary system breakdown, which has been so frustrating for so many.

Contained within the multiple economic stimulus packages being passed by the U.S. Congress are measures to increase both the amount of the weekly unemployment benefit and the length of time the benefits will be paid. There will also be direct cash payments deposited into almost everyone’s bank account. While the exact amount has not yet been determined, it’s without a doubt that a cash infusion to individuals and families, will soon be on its way.

For those who have recently lost their jobs, the help and the money cannot come fast enough.

Everyone is in the same boat. From newly unemployed individuals renting a single room in a house, to now closed large retail stores renting huge commercial space in shopping centers. Everyone is either paying rent or mortgage payments, and those receiving the rent and mortgage payments are all likewise using those funds to pay their bills.

The economic circle of debt and dependence is locked in, and the result is complete interdependence. In a disaster such as this, no-one can afford to foreclose or evict as there is no-one to replace that income stream. Consequently, there will be many measures in place to limit or block foreclosures and evictions. After all, they can’t foreclose and evict all of us!

The truth is the economic disruption while severe and extremely disruptive is temporary. The heartbreaking reality for those perhaps already stretched to their limit before the arrival of Covid-19 is that even if temporary, they will get pushed over the edge and lose everything. But for most of us, I believe we are in the midst of temporary hardship. An incredibly stressful hardship, but temporary – and necessary for the greater good.

For what it’s worth, I believe the worse will be over relatively soon. Approximately 3 months after the first outbreak, new cases of Covid-19 in China have been dropping slowly but steadily over the past few weeks. Restaurants in the hardest-hit areas are starting to reopen and economic activity is slowly restarting.

Following this pattern, we should likewise be turning the corner in 3 months or so. At some point, the hotels, restaurants and related businesses will then gradually start reopening. Airlines will begin reinstating previously canceled flights and our local economy will start climbing back to health. The economic recovery will take some time, but a year from now will feel much more like normal, than the uncertainty and stress we are all feeling now.

While no one can accurately predict what will come next, we can do our best to create the future we want for ourselves. We can and should be redoubling our efforts to achieve true food self-sufficiency. Likewise, it’s way past time to make economic diversification a reality and not just a buzz word. And during the coming blur of actions and activity that accompany all disasters and the subsequent rush to recovery, we must always remember three things: This too shall pass, the sun always comes up the next day and we are all in this together.

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About garyhooser

This blog represents my thoughts as an individual person and does not represent the official position of any organization I may be affiliated with. I presently serve as volunteer President of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (H.A.P.A.) I am the former Vice-Chair of the Democratic Party of Hawaii. In another past life, I was an elected member of the Kauai County Council, a Hawaii State Senator, and Majority Leader, and the Director of Environmental Quality Control for the State of Hawaii - in an even earlier incarnation I was an entrepreneur and small business owner. Yes, I am one of the luckiest guys on the planet. Please visit my website AND sign up for my newsletter (unlike any email newsletter you have ever gotten, of that I am sure) - “Come to the edge.” “We can’t. We’re afraid.” “Come to the edge.” “We can’t. We will fall!” “Come to the edge.” And they came. And he pushed them. And they flew. - Christopher Logue (b.1926)
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9 Responses to Reflections on Covid-19, Kauai County leadership and the future

  1. Lorrin Pang MD says:

    The issue for me is how long we have to maintain these restrictive measures for the sake of public health. Versus how long can we stand them economically. The model I choose to follow are The current state of affairs in China, South Korea Singapore Japan and Hong Kong. You don’t hear much about them because their case number and deaths have come down a lot. They were either very high or very threatened but seem to be able to stay low now. By contrast Hawaii, not the entire US was always quite low, so we will follow what These other countries are doing they do. these other countries are doing.

    They do intensive case and cluster finding and shut down The potential transmission around these clusters.

    I think they made a statement that one cluster undetected will spread and set them back one week in their Declining numbers. Hong Kong recently felt they could relaxed some of the social distancing rules and they doubled their rate quickly so they had to put back in place even more stringent measures. The real issue is that people will quote the replication number R0 as comparable to other illnesses but that replication number is independent of time. Some germs my double the disease cases over 20 years while other germs might also double the disease right over two weeks. This coronavirus really infect others very quickly after infection.

    Again we kind of know what we have to do even with the hygiene measures but how long can we stand this kind of social distancing? everyone pray for the summer maybe the warmer and more humid climates will give us some breathing space.


  2. Thank you for the reminders, and for encouraging all to put our energy into what we hope for, not what we fear.
    While mindful of the enormous unintended consequences of limited visitors, I also feel it’s a timely opportunity to explore what the right balance of residents to visitors might be here and elsewhere that is ultimately sustainable.
    Once again, mahalo nui for being an authentic, calm, hopeful voice and even sharing vulnerability re pull finger humor.

    • garyhooser says:

      Agree 100% that it is time to re-think…on many levels. It is times like these when the system is shocked and the world looks entirely different…that our goals and values get reviewed and hopefully strengthened. Perhaps we step back for a moment and then approach life with new gusto. Certainly, I will not be taking hugs and human touch for granted…not for a while anyway 😉

  3. Sam Kalua says:

    Thank You Mr. Hooser for your heartfelt comments and sincere aloha for our state. If we had more leaders like you, Mayors Kawakami and Kim at our national level. I don’t believe that our country would be in the disgraceful mess that we are currently in. Trust in God and not in wicked human beings.

  4. Lorrin Pang MD says:

    Sorry for the horrible grammar on the previous comment. On top of dealing with this situation the government has decided to issue me a complicated phone from which I am dictating from. No time to even get in front of my laptop anymore everything now is on the run.


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