Using Extensive Testing and Geographical Isolation to Mitigate the Coronavirus Crisis in Hawaii

Hawaii needs to quickly adopt and implement a plan to control and then halt the spread of the coronavirus or the cost in terms of lives and damage to the economy will be catastrophic.  The 1918 Spanish flu pandemic had an infection rate of 28% and a death rate of 2.5% for the infected population.  If the corona virus followed the same path in penetrating Hawaii’s current population of 1.4 million, it would lead to 9,800 deaths. Before considering a specific plan, we lay out the roles of the federal and state governments in preventing an economic collapse and in controlling the pandemic.  Given this general framework, Hawaii’s chosen plan should then take into account the state’s special characteristics that should give it some advantages in facing these challenges compared to states on the mainland.

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3 thoughts on “Using Extensive Testing and Geographical Isolation to Mitigate the Coronavirus Crisis in Hawaii”

  1. Given that state and local government are significant employers here, I’m assuming furloughs/downsizing isn’t on the table in this recession? Do you happen to know what the state’s capacity is to provide individual and business support?

    “State policy makers have the ability to make changes in state programs that will speed recovery, such as moving already planned construction projects forward. But the overall effect of these types of adjustments will at most add a few thousand jobs.”

    And here I thought every academic economist in Hawaii was an old-school Keynesian caricature. How refreshing.

    “Hawaii residents are familiar with multiple examples where our governments fail to coordinate, yet in an emergency a small number of governments has lower costs of cooperating than do a large number of governments. They would hopefully choose to work closely together.”

    Given the divergent approaches between the counties and state (begging the Governor for a shutdown) and between counties (last I read was Hawaii’s mayor is looking for shutdown workarounds), I find your optimism here surprising. I have the same hope, just not very optimistic on it.

  2. Tourism is an important source of corona virus infections in Hawaii. Measures have been taken to discourage the activity (new arrivals are supposed to stay in quarantine for 14 days and to avoid nonessential activities), but these measures are hard to enforce. Furthermore, the pandemic has caused price drops in air travel and accommodations in Hawaii, which act to offset such measures.
    An economic approach would be to tax the activity, which would at the same time discourage it and provide tax revenue. To make the tax more politically palatable, the revenue could be dedicated to addressing the corona virus in Hawaii. The tax could be implemented as a temporary addition (or surcharge) to the existing Transient Accommodations Tax (TAT). The main question would seem to be whether TAT increase could be put in place in time to help.

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