When the pandemic is over (because at some point it will be over one way or another, even if it may not feel like it, as we are stumbling from the wrong ending we witnessed this summer) we will take advantage from 20 . have / 20 in hindsight to analyze every decision and action that was taken during that terrible time.
However, we’ve been at it for so long, which is two-thirds of a three-act movie, and we’ve come to a point where we can learn lessons from what we’ve been through, and most importantly, from what we’ve done doesn’t work or didn’t care. For example:
1. It was pathetic washing your hands and singing Happy Birthday. Remember when it looked like hand sanitizer and vigorous hand scrubbing would save us? We were so naive then. Little did we know that the airborne virus didn’t rely on dirty hands. Hand washing without masks, social distancing and the vaccine was like bringing a knife to a shootout. (Wash your hands anyway.)
2. Politicians are prone to selfish decisions even in the worst of circumstances. Any decision on whether to wear a mask in public or what design to print on a mask worn in public is calculated in terms of public image, fundraising, and appeal to voters, thus removing all public information about Covid -19 so burdened by politicians.
3. Science is not fixed. It evolves. Despite your high school science teacher teaching like everything in the exam was set in stone, real scientists make an effort to learn new things. Sometimes the new information leads to new guidance that is different from previous information. It’s a good, smart thing.
4. We expect government officials to tell us what we want to hear, and when they tell us the truth instead, the rumbling starts that they will be replaced. This is another reason why the truth can be so elusive. It is sometimes undesirable or not tolerated.
5. The tourism industry is the most powerful force in Hawaii. There is nothing that can stop it. No awareness-raising campaigns, no bad advertising, no angry residents, not even inflated prices, complicated travel rules or the risk of a deadly virus. The tourism industry is more than the hotel developers and international corporate owners, more than the myriad of illegal vacation rental owners, more than the airlines or rental cars, or the thousands of companies that make their living from people who do not live here. It’s a unit on its own, a great viral boost to conquer paradise and squeeze every bit of fun from every corner of the state.
6. There is no cure for stupidity. People who cling to bad information, nonsensical explanations, conspiracy theories and a happy disdain for science do not allow themselves to be taught, persuaded, flattered or enlightened. Step aside and keep walking forward. You are on your own.
7. Lunch on the plate is not an instrument of negotiation. Neither a free trip to Las Vegas nor any of the other gimmicks are meant to tempt vaccine hesitation into starting the program. Incentives were worth trying, but seemed to be treating a serious situation like a car dealership’s gambling.
8. The gap between public and private schools is shameful, especially with David Ige in the governor’s office and his DOE veteran wife, Dawn Ige, telling him what to do. While private schools have been busy making and donating face shields for medical workers, public schools are still farting with a flimsy online learning program (Acellus) that contained strange teachers and racist content. That was two school years ago. Since then, the contrast has become even brighter.
9. The homeless are surprisingly resilient. Despite the uncertainty of life on the street or in the bushes, despite a lack of access to hygiene or a supply of healthy food or easily accessible medical care, the homeless population seems almost unchanged from the great changes that have swept across the islands. Homeless people were less prone to Covid than, for example, the Hilo veterans who lived and died in the Yukio Okutsu nursing home last fall.
10. The introverts will inherit the earth. The virus, which killed 626,000 people in the US and 563 people in Hawaii as of Saturday, is human-to-human transmission. Some people just can’t stand being alone. You must venture to gatherings at all costs. They are attracted to coughing, Covid-covered crowds like a moth in a flame, they cannot work from home, have to be part of a herd to feel safe. Those who are satisfied with the loneliness significantly reduce their exposure potential.
Ultimately, the lessons learned will be innumerable. The thing is, even the greatest lessons, learned the hardest possible way, don’t always stick.
After Hurricane Iniki, people swore up and down that they would never be this vulnerable again, but how many homes have been built on ridges and shorelines?
There will be more incentives for plate lunches applied to serious subjects. Tourism will shape Hawaii for the foreseeable future. Some people will reject Truth, Science, Logic, and Life-Saving Medicine and will die happily knowing that they have not been “fooled”.