HONOLULU (KHON2) — This week marks one year of COVID-19 in the State of Hawaii. On March 6, 2020, Department of Health officials announced the first positive coronavirus case in the islands.
COVID-19 has quickly snowballed since then.
A KHON2 report on March 6, 2020, showed the streets of Waikiki still packed with tourists.
Life essentially came to a screeching halt 20 days later.
On March 22, 2020, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced the stay at home, work from home order.
Then Gov. David Ige’s emergency proclamation that mandated a 14-day quarantine for all incoming travelers to the State of Hawaii went into effect on March 26.
“That was the last resort. We didn’t want to have to do it, but by the same token, we did see how infectious the virus was,” Ige said reflecting on the past year in a one-on-one interview with KHON2.
When asked how he would describe the past 12 months, Ige replied, “I would say it was relentless and all consuming.”
Masks became the new normal by the end of April and the state’s unemployment rate began to soar.
“That’s the part that keeps me up at night, and just knowing that there are individuals in our community, families that are unemployed still, and that there is support for them, and we struggle with just getting them certified and able to get resources,” Ige said, admitting that dealing with the high unemployment from the pandemic has been a challenge.
In May, 2020, case counts for Hawaii were down significantly. On June 16, the inter-island travel quarantine was lifted.
“I was proud of the response of our community, and certainly, we looked hopeful,” Ige said about how he was feeling during May of last year.
Summer gatherings sent the state backwards, however.
“You could see the gatherings start to increase over Memorial Day weekend, and clearly by the Fourth of July weekend… It was like the virus was not existent,” Ige said about the summer surge.
On August 13, 2020, Hawaii had a record-breaking number of new cases in a single day, 355.
The outbreak at the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans home was personal for Gov. Ige.
“That was really one of the hardest points and you know, I know people who have family in that facility. I got calls and texts, about that,” Ige said.
Almost all of the residents at the home got infected with the virus and more than two dozen died from COVID-19.
“Typically, in the first one or two or three rounds of testing, you would identify all of those who are sick, and then the case counts would come down, but in this case, it increased with every round of testing and that was really heartbreaking,” Ige said.
There seemed to be some hope for the struggling economy with the launch of the Safe Travels Program in mid-October.
The first COVID vaccines arrived in the state on December 14, 2020.
Ige said, he is pleased with Hawaii’s vaccination efforts so far but he wants to get more doses from the federal government.
“Right now we’re getting 40,000 to 50,000 doses a week,” he said. “We could easily scale to 80,000 or more.”
Ige says there is light at the end of the tunnel. A program to allow vaccinated people to travel quarantine and COVID test-free is in the works.
“We will be prepared to implement, recognizing the vaccine status of an individual relatively shortly after the CDC issues those specific guidance,” Ige explained, adding that he wants to make sure vaccinated travelers cannot spread the virus.
Ige said, the Safe Travels Program will remain in place as is until the science is proven.
The governor said, he is hopeful the CDC will release more guidance by the end of summer so he can ease travel restrictions for those who are fully vaccinated.