From the governor: Preparing for better days aheadPosted on Feb 25, 2022 in Capitol Connection, Featured, Main
The good news for Hawai‘i: COVID-19 case counts are coming down. The challenge: How to keep us safe as we “learn to live with COVID” and how to position the state and its people for the future. Add to that the continuing Red Hill crisis and concerns for O‘ahu’s water supply. The governor and the Ige administration are holding firm on their emergency order for the Navy to defuel the tanks because “national security can’t come at the expense of the community’s health.”
Q: Are we preparing for ways to live with COVID-19?
A: We’re clearly transitioning, especially since case counts are lower in Hawai‘i. Statewide, we’re above 75 percent in vaccinations, and we continue to make progress on boosters and vaccinating children ages 5 to 11. We’re preparing for the day when we would have to respond to future COVID surges with much less federal support. For example, we wouldn’t have the resources for extended mass vaccination and testing, so the Department of Health is looking to acquire more at-home tests, especially for communities that are more vulnerable.
Q: What about indoor masking and the Safe Travels program?
A: We know masking is effective, but even if we don’t extend a requirement by emergency proclamation, our residents have a high degree of compliance and will do what they can to keep our community safe. We do anticipate eventually closing the Safe Travels program, but the timeline is still being discussed. No other state is requiring vaccinations or boosters for travel. From a public health perspective and the status of our healthcare system, we’re in good shape for now.
Q: How do you feel about the Navy appealing the state’s emergency order on Red Hill?
A: Basically, the Navy is challenging the state’s authority to issue the emergency order. But we believe the law is clear that DOH has the authority to issue this emergency order, and the law is also clear that everyone, including the federal government, has to comply with state rules dealing with underground storage tanks. People’s lives have been affected and our aquifer is threatened. We have fuel in the water, we don’t know if it will continue and we don’t know if corrections will prevent it from happening again. We’re standing by our order to remove the fuel, then have the Navy establish that they can operate the facility safely.
Q: What’s your reaction to the news of federal bribery charges against former legislators Kalani English and Ty Cullen?
A: It’s a terrible breach of public trust. I do believe elected officials must operate at the highest level of ethics. That’s why when I was a legislator I did not have fundraisers during session. It’s bad practice to have fundraisers to solicit campaign contributions at the same time they’re holding hearings on measures and making decisions that impact these contributors.
Q: Why is investing in broadband so important to the state’s future?
A: With the pandemic, virtually every service the state provides — from education to unemployment and SNAP benefits to library services — went online because we had to. We want to make government investments using federal and state funds in what we call the “middle mile” to deliver affordable broadband to every single resident in the state, whether they live in a rural community or an urban area. And we want to have our libraries help deliver the “last mile” of services as community hubs where people can go for help.