Current Thoughts (Mostly Hawaii)

Hard questions to ask

On Tuesday the 22nd, a gut-wrenching “get real about life” piece came out on Honolulu Civil Beat asking one simple question, “When And How Does The Pandemic End?”

It’s been a question that I feel we as a society have been avoiding or fooling ourselves to think “oh, it’ll end pretty soon, see the lockdown will end on the 23rd (of September) and we’ll all be okay”. Or “the vaccine will be out in October like President Trump says and we’ll be okay after that”.

So those who think that just because a vaccine will come out or man-made imposed rules on movement will go away soon means things will get back to normal are a bit myopic at this point. And when it comes to the vaccine, reports coming out say that there are several problems with basing your whole hope on it. Everything from the question of whether we will even get a vaccine that works, distribution, and even willingness to get a shot of it all issues that have yet to be answered.

Delicious questions you can eat
Unfortunately, the answers that we need to ask won’t be found on a pop tart, in Google, or even by our government. It’s going to be answered by us as a people.
PC: “Delicious questions you can eat” by Wade Rockett is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

With the Civil Beat article, though, it does provide something of a framework for me to put out these two points – questions really – that we as a society need to truly answer if we are to break the curse of COVID. These are questions that require some thinking, and some examination of one’s gut, to determine what we want to have happened next.

1. For the time being, and we are talking about maybe 2 years here if we all decide that the vaccine is not something that everyone will take, what is society’s choices as to what it will sacrifice? I hate to say it but it runs the gamut from working at an office to having people to your home, picnics with friends, or even celebration of holidays with family.

Are we willing to sacrifice traveling and sticking it out here on the island for the next couple of years? What about seeing family or loved ones outside of Hawaii that are elderly and will pass away without them there? Is that something that we can tolerate for the sake of public health at this time?

2. If we decide that, instead, a vaccine is a way to go, how do we make sure that everyone is on board with it? What plans are there to distribute it fairly and quickly to everyone, and what can we do as a society to be sure that when it does arrive, we are ready to go with telling our friends, family, neighbors, and workmates “eh, get the shot”.

I would suggest that a partial answer to number 2 is to show what is the answer to the first question. Why? Because so far, we have been fooling ourselves to think that the management of this virus will still allow us to do the things that make our lives whole.

The Civil Beat article shows that may not be possible. It is at this point the hard questions need to be asked. We must pray then that we can all speak about this like adults and answer – our society depends on it.

In their own words

During the examination of the WARN letters from the Department of Labor last weekend, published here, an interesting tidbit was discovered. Along with the list of positions that were being eliminated, along with the number of people for each position, the companies also wrote letters explaining the reductions.

They also, in some cases, made it very clear what their feelings were of state leadership and how they see the COVID economic crisis unfolding over the next few months.

These letters provide a window. What they envision is not business as usual anytime soon. And to boot, many whose livelihoods are based on these jobs may not see them come back for some time.

But don’t take my word for it…read it for yourself.

“Furthermore, it is now apparent that the State of Hawai‘i has no clear timeline for reopening plans, making it likely that our operations will remain limited or shut down for some time due to government restrictions and other reasons beyond our control. Based on information that is currently available, it is possible that the temporary furloughs of employees will last longer than six months. We continue to remain optimistic that we will be able to reopen and bring employees back to work. However, we are uncertain given the rapidly-changing situation how our circumstances will continue to evolve.”

Mauna Kea Resort / Prince Resorts Hawai‘I  9-1-2020

“As you know, Governor Ige issued restrictive orders beginning in March 2020 and has subsequently issued twelve restrictive proclamations, which include stay at home orders, 14-day quarantine periods for all visitors, limitations on travel between islands, health screenings and beach closures, to name a few. Most recently there continue to be “spikes’ of the virus across the state. As a result, Governor Ige has recently issued his 12th Proclamation and the Mayor of Honolulu has continued his ordered prohibiting social gatherings and requiring everyone but essential workers to stay at home, among other restrictions. These continued restrictions will prolong the severe impact the virus has had on the Resort’s business”

Turtle Bay Resort – 8-31-2020

“We anticipate these changes will be permanent as the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority has predicted that tourism levels are not expected to return to anything resembling 2019 levels until 2025. Nonetheless, it is possible that some employees could be contracted or invited to return to employment with the PCC if operational needs dictate that their particular skills, experience and training render them qualified for the positions that are needed due to significant increases in visitor traffic and the PCC’s guest attendance numbers.”

Polynesian Cultural Center – 7-24-2020

“[T]he initial government stay-at-home order, travel prohibitions, mandatory self-quarantine periods for travelers, and closures of restaurants and non-essential businesses began in March 2020 and were set to expire after a short period. Since that time, however, the government orders have been extended multiple times for reasons beyond our control. The reopening plans of the State of Hawai‘i have no clear timelines.”

Trump International Hotel, Waikīkī – 7-20-2020

We are taking these actions because of COVID-19 related business circumstances that were not reasonably foreseeable at the time notice would have been required. We did not and could not have foreseen how broadly and deeply the COVID-19 epidemic would spread and affect our business; nor did we foresee the “lockdown” orders, initially issued for short durations in certain specific cities, would spread throughout the country and consistently and continually extended and/or changed, thus not merely interrupting commerce and travel for a short period, but now disrupting commerce and travel for the foreseeable future. “

Doubletree by Hilton – 8-18-2020

It’s probably higher than this

The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act of 1988 is a US labor law that protects employees, their families, and communities by requiring most employers with 100 or more employees to provide 60 calendar-day advance notification of plant closings and mass layoffs of employees.

Typically you hear about these notices being filed on the mainland, by large companies looking to downsize. Here in Hawaii, a WARN notice is an infrequent event, and typically becomes the first thing on the 6:00 evening news.

But we are not living in typical times.

Since the beginning of August, 45 companies in the State of Hawaii have filed WARN notices with the State’s Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. These notices only represent announcements by companies in the state that have 100 or more employees. Notices are done in real-time and can be found on the States Dept. of Labor’s WARN website.

One can surmise that the total number of layoffs occurring (or will occur) could be a much higher number when taken into account other news about closures of smaller entities in the last month.

I am sure that there is a lot of other commentaries that can be made on the figures presented here, but for now, here is the list of employers that have filed WARN notices just in the last month in Hawaii.

Read past entries of Stan Fichtman and PoliticsHawaii.com!

What am I listening to?

These are the Podcasters that I am listening to, try them out!

Tim Pool (on YouTube)

Pod Save America (on YouTube)

Sargon of Akkad - Carl Benjamin (on YouTube)

Who am I reading/getting news from

I am very choosy as to where I get my news from, here are some dependable sources I refer to when reading up on topics

The Atlantic

CNBC

Civil Beat (Hawaii on-line newspaper)

Honolulu Star Advertiser (mostly paywalled, but you get free headlines)

Beat of Hawaii (Tourism based news source from Kauai)

Twitter Feed

Here are my current thoughts of things going on.

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