From the governor: Hope, challenges as vaccines arrive

Posted on Dec 29, 2020 in Capitol Connection, Featured
Governor Ige inspects the first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines at The Queen’s Medical Center last month. The initial delivery from Pfizer-BioNTech marked a major milestone for Hawai‘i in the ongoing effort to combat COVID-19 and return life to normal.

Governor Ige inspects the first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines at The Queen’s Medical Center last month. The initial delivery from Pfizer-BioNTech marked a major milestone for Hawai‘i in the ongoing effort to combat COVID-19 and return life to normal.

A year ago, no one could have imagined we’d be battling a global pandemic.Yet when we needed it most, Hawai‘i has stepped up. Healthcare heroes and first responders have put their lives on the line. The Department of Health and multiple state, county and federal agencies have helped keep us safe. Government agencies and community groups reached out to help families, and businesses reinvented themselves to survive. And the Hawai‘i National Guard has been everywhere to provide critical support. Now we’re looking to 2021 with the promise of vaccines and some hope ahead. This edition describes how Governor Ige, his team, and public and private partners continue to fight the virus as we prepare for the future together.

Q. What do you most want people to know as we look back on 2020?
A. I want to thank the people of Hawaii for their willingness to put community first. I’m proud to be governor of this state, despite the challenges we face. The national media have asked why we’ve done so well in handling the virus compared to other places, and I tell them it’s because of our strong sense of community. We understand that we can only be successful together. We know that what we do impacts our friends and neighbors, and that we’re willing to live with restrictions to protect us all.

Q. What gives you hope for the months ahead?
A. In 2021, we expect to have a COVID-19 vaccine for anyone who wants it. That will help us get to a “new normal” so we can return to in-person learning, our jobs and community activities. Even though we’ve never faced a crisis of this magnitude, our state created whole new systems in a matter of months to deal with the pandemic and help people survive. The virus changed every aspect of our lives, but we’re working hard to be as responsive as we can to help people who are still struggling. For our economy, we’ve been able to welcome more visitors to the islands without a major spike in COVID-19 cases, which tells us the Safe Travels program is working.

Q. What will be the economic impact from COVID-19 for the state — now and for the future?
A. The economic reality is that it will be a long, tough road to recovery until tourism rebounds. The state is projecting a $1.4 billion general fund shortfall for each of the next four years, so to make up the difference we’ve already instituted budget reductions, hiring freezes and other measures. The cabinet and I will also be taking pay cuts. We’re hoping to cut less from education, the Department of Human Services and other core areas that cover basic needs. As our last resort, the state employee furloughs will give us needed cost savings and allow us to restore hours when the economy improves. The Legislature and I will be working closely in the coming months to address all these issues.

Read more in the January Capitol Connection newsletter
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