Updating the situation on the ground here in Hawaii, including poorly interpreted data used to make critical decisions, and what may happen next in terms of both mainland travel and interisland travel.
Mainland travel scheduled to reopen in September. But will it?
We are doubtful at this time whether mainland travel will resume then. The plan, for months, from the governor, was to reopen travel with the requirement for testing 72 hours in advance. But then multiple things caused that plan to fall apart.
Governor Ige said yesterday, “When we had announced the Aug. 1 date back in June… the number of cases was low, or at least stable and the virus was not out of control on the mainland… Subsequent to that, we’ve seen the explosion of cases… We will assess what the conditions are as we approach September 1 to make another decision about whether we are ready; and more importantly, whether the virus is contained in those markets that are most important to us here in Hawaii.”
Hawaii lacked foresight and planning for testing.
The state did not plan to offer on-site testing on arrival, which was a critical adjunct to pre-travel testing necessary to assure travel could resume. They instead were said to rely exclusively on what appears to be a singular, failed, and never revealed agreement with CVS for testing. Hawaii’s health director touted that agreement as our saving grace. It was anything but.
As so many of you have pointed out in hundreds of comments, tests just aren’t consistently available for travelers on the basis Hawaii wanted. Some may be, yes, but again, this would need to be widely available from all mainland to Hawaii gateways. And that didn’t happen, and is not likely to happen anytime soon. Or at least not until the flareups on the mainland are under control. Timing there is anyone’s guess.
Will interisland travel without quarantine come to an end too?
There is a distinct possibility that interisland travel could stop again. The reason is the flareups in Honolulu and the possibility of those being transferred to the ill-prepared neighbor islands. As you know, until mid-June, Hawaii also had a quarantine on inter-island travel.
Regarding interisland, the governor said, “We are looking at the entire situation… We are also looking at hospital capacity, the ability to test and get results back within 24 to 48 hours, and then contact tracing… and then our ability to respond. Looking at all of those factors, we do continue to believe that it’s safe to allow interisland travel here in the state.”
Is poorly interpreted data leading the state to wrong conclusions?
The governor based his judgment on per capita increases being the same on each island, which, they are not. He said, “We still see that the prevalence rate of the virus in each of the counties are very similar in terms of a per capita basis.” And that came while the Department of Health reported 55 new cases just yesterday, the highest to date, of which 50 were in Honolulu, 3 on the Big Island and 2 on Maui.
Actual county by county population percentage, and active (not released) case percentage is below. This is according to data from the State Department of Health and the 2019 US census. It shows that Oahu has a far greater percentage of active cases, in relation to its population. The situation poses the greatest risk to those on the neighbor islands from interisland travel.
Oahu: 69% of the state’s population. 92% of active cases.
Maui: 12% of the state’s population. 5% of active cases.
The Big Island: 14% of the state’s population. 3% of active cases.
Kauai: 5% of the state’s population. Less than 1% of active cases.