Two years ago, to the date, a nationwide health emergency was declared by the president. It seems like a lifetime ago. Immediately after the declaration everything started to shut down. Schools. Businesses. Government offices. Bars and restaurants. Airlines. Trains. People worked and studied from home. Virtual meetings replaced in-person meet ups. Business as usual just stopped.
Living in Hawaii, I was absolutely shocked when the governor shut down all tourism to the state. Understand that tourism is a largest civilian employer (and special interest) in the state. It’s 21% of the state’s economy. Thousands of people were immediately thrown out of work. Hundreds of businesses were upended overnight. Millions of visitors (the polite term for tourists) couldn’t get to our tropical paradise. It takes some serious shit to shut down Waikiki. But it happened.
Since I follow a lot of health and medical news I was aware of COVID-19 and how scary it was looking early on. By the time things shut down here I was already feeling anxious about being exposed.
Living in a major transportation hub for the Pacific and East Asia means there’s a lot of opportunity for the virus to arrive in the islands and spread. We saw the spikes in local cases each time travel tentatively opened back up for spring breakers and holiday travelers to flood back into the state.
Yeah, no matter how tired people were of the restrictions COVID wasn’t done with us. And it was local folks who suffered the consequences of visitors ignoring the need for quarantines and vaccines. The freedom of some to work on their tans in the tropics somehow trumped the fundamental human right to have access to a healthy environment.
Here we are two years later and just over 6 million dead have been counted worldwide. Of course, that might not be an accurate number. According to the WHO it might be as many as three times that number have died. And COVID is still producing new variants, whose characteristics we cannot predict.
Here we are two years later and our government is winding down its COVID-19 restrictions. Hawaii is due to open back up completely later this month. I can’t help but think there’s a collective holding of breathe among the people and communities that have felt COVID’s direct impact.
But now there’s a war in Eastern Europe that demands our collective attention.