US Capitol Riot
I know you were as appalled as I was by Wednesday’s mob violence at the Capitol. Anyone who believes in the ideals of America and our democracy would be dismayed and offended by what disrupted our elected representatives from dutifully approving the results of our election and the peaceful transition of Presidential authority.
It is to the great credit of the members of the Senate and House of Representatives, as well as the Congressional staff, that despite the melee that forced them to retreat temporarily to secure quarters, they reconvened to complete their business and unequivocally affirmed that the People have elected Joe Biden as the 46th President of our great nation.
The criminal act by some reckless individuals, irresponsibly encouraged by the President himself, far exceeded the Constitutional right to freedom of speech and assembly. It has shaken the nation as well as other democracies and has prompted much finger-pointing and soul-searching.
We all should love and respect our country. We have been blessed with freedoms and rights unrivaled in the world. Let’s hold the offenders accountable, put this ugly incident behind us, and move forward together as one to unite our citizenry and rebuild our nation. We need a little more Aloha and less rancor, racism, and divisiveness in our communities. Let’s hope and pray that 2021 will bring a renewed sense of faith, hope, and optimism into the lives of all Americans.
COVID-19 Case Count
The recent spike in new COVID-19 cases has caused renewed discussion regarding the need for further restrictions to mitigate spread of the virus around our state. While these new positive cases are concerning, data collected by the State Department of Health indicates that these new clusters are almost entirely driven by community spread. Moreover, the vast majority of travel-related cases are tied to Hawai'i residents who have recently visited the mainland and returned having been infected.
These findings were recently reiterated in the press by numerous elected officials including Mayor Victorino and Speaker Saiki. Even though several COVID-19 vaccines have been approved and are already being distributed throughout our state, it is incumbent on each of us to stay the course, social distance, limit the size of our gatherings, and wear our masks. We cannot lose sight of the goal now.
I do commend Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi for not reacting to this recent spike in cases rashly and enacting further restrictions on our community. Thus far, he has indicated that no further restrictions are coming for O'ahu.
Statewide COVID-19 Policy
Speaker Saiki also recently appeared on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser's Spotlight Hawaii with House Majority Leader Della Au Belatti and covered a number of topics including the House's intention to introduce legislation that would enact a statewide travel policy. During the segment, he remarked that our economy is a statewide economy and that travel and tourism plays a large role in said economy. As such, having sole counties that have different rules, or opt out of the Safe Travels program entirely, is problematic and represents further obstacles that would turn away prospective travelers.
Recent polling of travelers on Kaua'i supports this sentiment. Upwards of 80% of respondents indicated that Kaua'i will not be competitive with the other islands in any scenario outside of the Safe Travels program. A similar number of people indicated that the Garden Isle's quarantine requirements would lead to them opting to travel elsewhere.
Speaker Saiki also indicated that the Legislature will be looking to pass legislation that would levy a fine against individuals who have defied COVID-19 mandates- much like a parking ticket. This is a concept that I proposed several months ago that would give the government the ability to enforce policies like mask mandates and limits on gathering size in a way that would encourage locals to wash their hands, wear their masks, and watch their distance.
I have long said that it is important for us as an industry to consistently sing from the same hymn book when it comes to policy. Now more than ever, we need to look at coalescing behind a single plan of action, and we should be open to reviewing and supporting Speaker Saiki's planned legislation that would help us to achieve this.
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