Please review this open letter to Governor Ige and Hawaii’s mayors. If you agree with it, please sign and forward it through your professional networks.
The letter was written by doctors with expertise in infectious diseases, primary care, and public health. It had significant input from colleagues in both epidemiology and economics.
The goal of the letter is to pressure (politely) the state government to make medically and epidemiologically sound decisions during our re-opening phase. In particular we are concerned by a push to allow tourism to resume with insufficient travel screening, a decision that epidemiologists assure us will lead to a nasty rebound in COVID cases locally. Instead we are pushing for test-based pre-travel screening as a means of relaxing quarantine for visitors. That may sound ambitious, but it’s much cheaper than importing cases will be, and it’s a fraction of the cost of a closed and shuttered tourism industry. UH economist Sumner La Croix – involved in our previous efforts – has made the same point (and in fact helped author this letter), as have representatives of the hospitality industry workers.
We want to be clear that while pre-travel testing is important, it’s not sufficient, and we anticipate the need for additional screening (ideally a second test) after travelers arrive in Hawaii. These are technical details that we plan to work out in future communications. However the first priority is to ensure that travel doesn’t resume in an irresponsible way.
We also are calling for further improvements in test – trace – isolate, the core public health functions that have controlled disease spread in places like Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. We continue to lag far behind those jurisdictions, particularly in contact tracing capacity.
A previous letter from our group, submitted to the Governor with signatures from 80 physicians, received positive coverage in the media. The mayors in particular were supportive, and within a few days DOH announced plans to train 300 new contact tracers. That program is now just beginning but will be invaluable if a future surge occurs. Now that we have beat the first wave, the thrust of the current letter is a bit different. We want to prevent a second wave altogether by re-opening our tourism economy in a way that makes travel here safe.
As a personal aside, having not been involved in professional activism previously, I can relate that no one in charge right now wants to be seen ignoring doctors and nurses. We have an opportunity – if we can speak with one voice – to have an immensely positive impact. That’s a rare thing and I hope we can take advantage of it to protect our state.
Please have a look at the letter. If you agree please add your name and forward this message and link along.
Jonathan Dworkin, MD