How to Control Hawaii’s Coronavirus Epidemic and Bring Back the Economy: The Next Steps

We spell out in detail how increased testing, comprehensive historical contact tracing, and isolation of exposed and infected individuals can lead to a rapid reduction in new infections and hospitalizations. Once this system has been put in place and has operated successfully for several weeks, we may begin to approach several measurable targets—number of new infections, number of new hospitalizations, capacity of the health care system to treat newly infected or exposed individuals—that would enable Governor Ige to gradually relax his stay-at-home order and for individuals to gradually relax some social distancing restrictions.


14 thoughts on “How to Control Hawaii’s Coronavirus Epidemic and Bring Back the Economy: The Next Steps”

  1. UHERO team…most excellent work and report. I’m hoping that somehow our elected officials are required to read this, understand this report and then take actions to see the recommendations implemented.
    If possible an abbreviated version would be helpful for all. This should be made available to social media, U of H…student version, in other languages, posted on the Hawaii Dept. of Health web site, printed to post on windows etc. etc

    1. Greg, thanks for the comment. The report’s been widely distributed and will surely be read and discussed by many in Hawaii government. And yes, a short version would be helpful. Sumner

    2. Hawaii needs to develop Certified Covid-free (CCF) status as strategy. Tourists must have valid Health Certicates to board Hawai’i bound flight. Such a system will increase tourism demand & value and reduce disease risks.

      1. Sumner La Croix

        Jim, we propose this type of strategy in our brief. It is, of course, a bit complicated. Antibody tests available in the US right now are not very accurate. And an antigen test may not catch people in whom the virus is incubating. Still, for tourism to resume, there will need to be testing of tourists coming to Hawaii.

  2. Aloha Kākou! I was referred to your impressive work by Ben Trevino with whom Iʻve been communicating about the ways in which non-profits can become part of COVID recovery planning.

    I am reaching out to you in hopes that your team considers a strategic approach to inserting non-profits into governmental recovery planning – at both the City and County and state levels. As one of my articulate partners calls this idea – building non-traditional capacity for Hawaiiʻs economic recovery.

    Our non-profit is particularly interested in developing partnership pathways with the Honolulu City and County for park (including stream, fishpond and native habitat) and bike path restoration and maintenance. We have been organizing a significant and effective volunteer work force for two years at Kapapapuhi Point Park in `Ewa and see the COVID crisis as a pivot point during which we can develop more effective non-profit-governmental collaboration.

    We agree that non-profit-governmental efforts should currently be focused on providing basic needs as well as serving the most vulnerable in our community – and that these efforts should continue after the crisis is over. We also believe that the current crisis has pointed out the need for improvements in our outdoor spaces, resource management and sustainable transportation when the crisis abates.

    I am hoping to connect with you this month to discuss the role the Hawaii Alliance for Non-Profit Organizations – HANO (to whom I have already reached out), and our non-profit, might play in this endeavor. I look forward to hearing from you as your schedule allows and in the meantime, take care and stay safe!

    I would like to note that our non-profit has both City Council and Legislative partners that could advise us as in our strategic planning communication efforts.

    1. Sumner La Croix

      Hi Sandy, I am in total agreement. We should take this pause as an opportunity to review tourist (and resident) use of stressed natural resources (like the Diamond Head lookout trail and other trails) and to do long needed maintenance. People are unemployed and the state should consider hiring them to do basic maintenance on trails and to conduct long needed maintenance on streets, beaches, etc. Non-profits are key to getting this done right.


  3. Regarding Tourism: Japan may soon be sufficiently Corona-free that Hawaii could reopen to Japanese tourists without waiting for a vaccine. Taiwan, New Zealand, and Pacific Island nations as well. As long as Hawaii is sufficiently Corona-free for them to agree.

    1. Sumner La Croix

      We could open to Japanese tourists sometime this summer if a proper testing regime was put in place in Japan that certifies whether tourists are antigen negative or antibody positive. I think the Hawaii community would be ready to receive tourists again if we knew they had a low chance of carrying the virus. Before we can accept any tourists, we need to bolster our own testing, contract tracing and isolation capacities. If an outbreak happens among tourists or workers in the tourism industry, we need to be able to quickly isolate positive people and trace down their contacts.

      Stay safe, Sumner

  4. I agree: I have kept repeating the facts
    regarding Germany, and that testing has
    help the virus down, compared to other EU. Countries. Sweden is another example of sensible social responsibility.
    I believe our families here, must be a priority, and the 15 minute test is essential. I am almost 67, and I should not have to wait until I have symptoms
    to get tested. We need to know that we all are free of this virus, and take others out immediately to quarantine if they aren’t. This system we have is Russian roulette.
    We have to recover before the economy
    People need to be tested before and after the their flights.
    No one from China, should be traveling to this country. I am not being personally biased, however, their WET bars have returned , thus they are consuming the wild and dangerous food that had started
    this pandemic. There is enough proof , from epidemiologists , that these eating habits started this: ie pictures of people currently eating wild bats at a restaurant.
    We have also learned in these islands, from this moratorium on tourist activities
    that our oceans needed a break.
    Wildlife all over the world have been coming out into what was their pervious habitats. These whales have needed a break also, I want to encourage limits on whale watches, and other untethered
    activities.” This isn’t a Disneyland in the Pacific Islands.
    Our co2 emissions have reduced by over
    1/2, at lest, which also end up in the oceans, and effect our natural world.
    Thus was and is, a wake up call to the earth,. Even if you aren’t religious or,
    Catholic, the Pope called on the human race to consider our creation, and what we have done.
    The earth measured less movement and sisemic activity since the instruments were invented.
    Yes, tourism is essential to our economic existence, but what kind and how much can these islands sustain.
    It was always my hope, and unheard suggestion, that tourists flying over, must read and sign a form, and see a video, that educates them on environmental
    issues, ie: to stay a distance away from
    turtles, not walking on coral, etc.
    Our islands also need to respond with
    rules, laws and standards for trash recycling, and using alternatives to plastic, which large corporations must follow.
    We have to much plastic, and unrecylable
    These outlying arreas must invest in not only shipping in alternatives? but somehow producing them.
    So, I am asking leaders of all walks of life, to consider other industries, besides
    What we are experiencing, is a wake up call, to hoe we run these islands.
    They are building a 400 room Hilton Time
    Share on The N. end of South Kihei Rd.
    on the beach by an ancient fish pond,
    and the National Marine Sanctuary, where once the Old Small Maui Lu,
    stood. This is primarily a residential neighborhood, with a water shed
    where the blue rock was broken up by pole drivers for months.
    It never should have been built or started.
    We have NEW affordable housing, without PV SOLAR.
    We had a tremendous amount of hotel capacity, and rental cars, industry, and a new 30, million dollar gym and sports complex in S. Maui, but no plans or organized after school activities, none for children 4-7.
    The pals program over fills immediately,
    and the other programs are for 7 and up at Kihei Youth Center.
    There is a lottery and a waiting list for Kihei Charter School.
    We have spotty, expensive preschools, and no pre-k, and our teachers are paid
    some of the lowest wages in the nation.
    I do know, since both of my daughters are in education in California, where they
    have all of the above,
    This has been a wake up call as I am retired, but now unable to sustain my own living situations, and have become
    fearful of being homeless, again, a population internally growing.
    It’s difficult to see all the new commercial
    building and out growth, leaving deserted
    buildings that could be put to use, for the homeless that need it and want it.
    The air bnb’s can now be used for long term housing, and not just the same day to day tremendous prices, which are close to the hotel prices.
    These longer term changes can be beneficial to the resurgence of our local
    economic sustainability for the long term future. I am with the Hawaiian People Calling for more real cultural rights and education.
    However, this can only start with short term testing immediately.


    1. Sumner La Croix

      We need to test more people. The testing needs to be coordinated across all public and private parties. It should be strategically targeted to people most in need. Thanks for your comments and concerns.


  5. I did not see mention of testing asymptomatic people in high risk environments, specifically, closed living situations like prisons, nursing homes, military bases, ships and the like. Testing residents in these congregated living environments and workers who come and go to these environments will protect their vulnerable populations until a vaccine becomes available. Indeed, re-testing those who have tested negative, at appropriate intervals, is a rational strategy for identifying asymptomatic or early carriers.

    In Hawaii, do we know the numbers of people working and living in such situations and how many tests would be needed to monitor them? Are we planning for this?

    1. Sumner La Croix

      Hi Dan, I’m in complete agreement. How can we open up if we have not implemented arrangement to test people in these groups? Thanks for your comment and concerns!


  6. The UHERO COVID-19 economic recovery report dated April 3, 2020 states, “Ensuring that children do not fall behind in their instruction should be a priority for the state and teachers.” This needs to go far beyond the social distancing mechanics mentioned in the report.
    The Education Institute of Hawaii, a non partisan education think tank comprised of award winning Hawaii educators offers the below five steps in thinking through the K-12 public education aspects of the state economic recovery plan.
    1) Focus on immediate critical issues such as accountability, access and transparency which we are currently shaping through engagement with DOE along with other education groups.
    2) Mitigate further loss of teachers by any means possible.
    3) Empower schools and allow principals to lead in an authentic and community-based way where the DOE supports their needs instead of dictating requirements. Reinvigorate the Governor’s Blueprint for Public Education as a sustainable empowerment model along with other proven methods of school empowerment.
    4) Discover what education innovations can be derived from these challenging circumstances that create better equity, efficiencies and opportunities for our students. This is a public, private and charter conversation that helps to move best practices from the few to the majority.
    5) Forecast the economic benefits of these efforts through economic modeling in line with Eric Hanusheck’s work. Some initial work on the economic benefits of an improved education system in Hawaii was introduced by Dr. Hanusheck in 2016 (brief available upon request).

    Now is the time to revive workable ideas that can be applied to the current context in a way that complements other sectors and parallel efforts. We do not want the COVID-19 crisis to be another barrier to Hawaii public education reaching its potential. Instead, we want to be able to see through the current situation as a way to reevaluate our current education system and methods and to re-imagine a sustainable way ahead that is inextricably tied to Hawaii’s future economic success.

    1. Sumner La Croix

      Dear Stephen,

      Thanks for the comments about opening up education. The five-point plan is a good guide to how we can proceed. Since the public schools are likely to remain mostly closed to in-person instruction until the Fall semester, we have the opportunity to learn from school systems that are already gradually opening, such as Denmark where K-5 students are returning and Germany where some high school students will return soon.

      Stay safe, Sumner

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