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’Tis the season to mask up, stay vigilant and hopeful

Posted on Nov 25, 2020 in Capitol Connection, Featured
Chelei Kahalewai and her aunty in DOH’s “How to Gather. For Real” campaign.

Chelei Kahalewai and her aunty in DOH’s “How to Gather. For Real” campaign.

It’s true this holiday season in Hawai‘i will be like no other. The pandemic continues to impact our health, our jobs and our way of life, with challenging times still ahead. But there are glimmers of hope: Most people here are still masking up, a vaccine is on the horizon and our COVID-19 case numbers are among the lowest in the nation. Governor Ige and his team want everyone to know how important it is — now more than ever — to stay vigilant. Let’s take care of each other and our community as we face the new year together — with hope.

Q. Heading into the holidays, what do you want people to know about the progress we’ve made on COVID-19?
A. Hawai‘i currently has the lowest incidence of COVID-19 in the nation because people have been taking precautions. This year we have to do the holidays differently, especially with cases surging on the mainland. The new cluster reports from the state Department of Health help us understand the kinds of in-person activities that spread the virus when we let down our guard around family and friends. People have more control over the virus than they think if they just limit their interactions, wear their masks, wash their hands and watch their distance.

Q. Why was a clearer statewide mask mandate needed?
A. People needed to know they must wear a mask when they are out in public. We have had a mask mandate since April, but now the explicit language for the exceptions is the same from county to county. Businesses wanted us to add that they can refuse service to someone who doesn’t wear a mask, unless an exception applies. The 15th emergency proclamation also requires all hotel operators statewide to have their own COVID-19 health and safety plan so they’re prepared in case someone becomes symptomatic and tests positive for the virus.

Q. What gives you confidence in the state’s plans to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine?
A. In talks with other governors and our federal partners, it’s clear to me that we have a higher sense of community in Hawai‘i.  We understand it’s important that we work together, especially when we’re trying to vaccinate thousands of people across the state in a short period of time. We learned some valuable things from the surge COVID-19 testing about coordinating with the counties. We governors are cautiously optimistic that the federal government will provide the funding needed to distribute the vaccine, so we need to be ready.

Q. What is your reaction to the outcome of the presidential election and President Trump’s allegations of election fraud?
A. It’s unfortunate that President Trump attacks the election process with no basis to question it. Free and fair elections are such an important part of our democracy. At least Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be working to bring the country together. President Trump’s refusal to concede the election isn’t helpful, especially when there’s no evidence of fraud.

Q. How are you and the First Lady celebrating the holidays safely?
A. The challenge with this pandemic is that we’ve all had to sacrifice time with our families and friends. Two of our children are coming home, but we’ve told them they should isolate for 14 days and pre-test before arriving in Hawai‘i and that they can’t socialize with all their friends when they’re here. Our other daughter, a nurse in Washington state, just learned all leaves at her clinic were cancelled because they’re short-staffed. For the rest of our relatives, we’ll have to celebrate virtually.

Read more in the December Capitol Connection newsletter
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