Locked Down by Politics, Not Pandemic

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This week has been a series of dog-and-pony shows featuring the faces of Gov. David Ige, DOH Director Bruce Anderson (he who is not a medical doctor) Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell and their pet dog, Council Member Joey Manahan. For stage props, they used and abused Lt. Gov. Josh Green and United States Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who has come to Hawaii to intercede amidst the rising surge of Covid-19 infections that threaten to overrun our tiny, little medical system.

And here we are.

Let me start this rant with recognition that the VERY FIRST order Ige enacted regarding the pandemic COVID-19 was to SUSPEND HAWAII’S OPEN GOVERNMENT law. As recently as this week, Ige’s office has declined to provide copies of communications about the coronavirus between his staff, the state’s DOH, the tourism industry and other businesses.

It is now a documented fact that our government failed. We have reached a dangerous turning point in the fight against COVID-19. Our hospitals are on the verge of becoming overwhelmed with coronavirus cases. We have no effective contact tracing, we have a shortage of nurses and we have weak and ineffective leadership to steer us out of this pandemic.

The US Surgeon General had to COME TO HAWAII to see that these failures cease; that the tools at hand are being meted out judiciously; that we have contact tracing, tracking, isolation, testing, PPEs and appropriate closures to curb the spread of this disease – BECAUSE GOV. IGE, DOH DIRECTOR ANDERSON AND OAHU MAYOR CALDWELL FAILED.

We all knew that the closures were insane. You can go to the gym and the movies, but you get a $5,000 ticket for walking through the park. You can play golf but you can’t go to the beach. You can go to a public school (private schools had distance learning in place) and go to church services, but you can’t have more than five at dinner in a restaurant.

As far as I can tell, you can still go to church services (thank you Pres. Trump for that avenue of contagion when online worked just as well), but on Thursday, the DOE finally acceded to extended “Learn from Home” orders through Oct. 2 after union members clamored for common sense.

But it is the failure of government and the condescension and obfuscation by the mainstream Hawaii press and politicians that is breathtaking! I know I am not alone as I watch in jaw-dropping suspense for someone to put a hook around Anderson and his sidekick State Epidemiologist Sarah Park and pull them off the stage!

Since the joining of HNN – Hawaii News Now – when three stations banded together to “save money” to produce news, our news outlets have become one voice. The once- bad-boy Civil Beat is now a mainstream media regular and with the struggling Star Advertiser they are lending their voices to the chorus. All are the same. All refuse to state the obvious. The Fifth Column is dead in Hawaii, unless you count the offbeat, like Hawaii Reporter.

Here I can state without fear of breaking ranks that Hawaii’s residents have been ripped off. That $50 million that was supposed to be spent on tracking and tracing? Where did it go?

The state auditor released a report on DOH contact tracing that is riveting. A report by KITV on the audit Thursday said that, “”Instead of cooperation and assistance, we encountered barriers, delays,” wrote State Auditor Leslie Kondo. The state auditor’s report described the same BS we have all seen as the state has failed and failed and failed again – to do the most basic things to stem the coronavirus.

Here is a sample:

During an August 18 interview, we asked the Health Director if the department makes arrangements for people who are unable to self-isolate or self-quarantine in their homes. He replied that, while the figure may vary day- to-day, around 40 individuals are residing in hotel rooms secured by DOH to accommodate those who were not able to self-isolate or self- quarantine at home. When we questioned the Health Director about the number of rooms that DOH had available to house so many people, he replied, “Believe it or not, for the cases we have, in the vast majority of cases, self-isolation or self- quarantine can be accomplished in the home.”

But what people want to do may be contrary to what they can do. Assuming just 100 new cases per day and, on average, 2 close contacts per each person who tested positive, 300 people may be asked to self-isolate and self-quarantine each day. Over the course of 14 days, that’s 4,200 people who may be self-isolating and self- quarantining. We question the Health Director’s assumption that, out of such a large number of people, only about 40 people are unable to self- isolate or self-quarantine in their homes. And, if the average number of cases is more than 100 and/or the average number of close contacts is more than 2, the number of people who should be self-isolating and self-quarantining only raise more questions about the department’s ability to provide needed support services.

The report shows a pattern of insanity that amounts to gambling with the public’s health as a career move:

“We intended to report on DOH’s contact tracing process, primarily to filter through the varying, confusing, and often conflicting information and to provide a clearer, objective,
and up-to-date understanding of the department’s efforts. However, instead of cooperation and assistance, we encountered barriers, delays, and ultimately were denied access to those responsible for leading the department’s contact tracing: theDisease Outbreak Control Division (DOCD) Chief and the Disease Investigation Branch (DIB) Chief, who recently took over that task. While the Health Director spoke with us, failing to respond to numerous requests until a few hours before the interview, he repeatedly directed us to speak with the DOCD Chief for answers to specific questions about the department’s contact tracing process. At the end of our discussion, the Director said he would ask the DOCD Chief to talk to us and would provide us with documents we had requested in multiple letters to him, including the department’s policies and procedures relating to contact tracing. However, the DOCD Chief did not contact us, and the Health Director did not provide the requested documents.”

Did you see this on HNN Thursday? No. Did you see this in the Star Advertiser? No. Did you see this in your morning report on CB? No. It was on the outlier – as critical as this information is – KITV reported on it.

Why Contact Tracing? Because it is effective. It informs the exposed they should isolate and get tested. It keeps the virus out of circulation. It curbs community spread, which is what is rampant now on Oahu.

The CDC recommends that a “close contact,” defined as any individual who was within six feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes, be notified of their exposure by phone, text, email, or in-person (if appropriate) in the primary language of the individual within 24 hours of the health department first obtaining information about a contact.

That BASIC FUNDAMENTAL element has been totally absent from our local response by the state’s Department of Health to control the spread of the disease. Hence, people who are exposed and may be infected are wandering around as if nothing has happened, infecting others.

Remember those warnings about venereal disease from high school? Every time you have unprotected sex you are exposing yourself to every partner your partner and his/her partner ever had… and such it is with every time you are in close contact with someone within six feet for fifteen minutes.

One other thing – about that unemployment? Yeah. You got it. They moved all the people who were supposed to be getting you your unemployment out of the convention center and moved the contact tracers in their place. The department head quit. The whole shebang is run amuck and there is no one there again. What about that? And yes, Ige did decide that he was not going to attach that lifeline to add to those fortunate enough to get unemployment. He took it out of the budget in the hopes that the president will provide it instead. Nothing comes from Washington without steel strings attached, as we have seen with the PPP loans.Many of those who received PPP are being asked to pay it back – but their businesses have closed yet again – or they have had to close permanently. Now they are on the hook to the feds for a loan that was supposed to be forgiven. So yes, they kicked out the unemployment people without solving that problem and put the next problem, contact tracing, in there in a gesture of pure BS.

Politics drives the anonymity of information, too. Why don’t they tell us which gym has a cluster, or which restaurant? Which unions or businesses do you think are influencing those decisions? The DOH certainly won’t call you and tell you that you’ve been exposed because there are no contact tracers. Politics.

And what is Joey Manahan doing out there with Caldwell? He is Caldwell’s new pet dog, a hand-selected candidate for higher office, to follow Caldwell! Joey doesn’t have the most effected district.That distinction goes to Ewa Beach, Kym Pine. But Caldwell and Pine clash, so he selects his buddy, Manahan. Really? Politics? This is life or death! WTF?

What Manahan does have is OCCC in his district. United Public Workers HGEA are calling for the resignation of Public safety Director Nolan Espinda after 242 prisoners and 51 staff have tested positive and the department took days to test the prisoners. It’s not clear if they have finished testing the whole population yet. The courts had to order them to release prisoners. Two staff members at the Women’s Community Correctional Center in Kailua tested positive, as well. This, because there was no guidance on safety measures and operating procedures and a lack of PPEs. “To this day, only vague generalities and Department of Health and CDC guidelines have been provided,” said HGEA ED Randy Perreira.

It is downright ridiculous that our government has behaved this way. As UH Professor Ken Lawson (Facebook: FIND JOSH GREEN! MAYOR KOOKY KIRK’S CONFUSING COVID19 RESTRICTIONS) has pointed out, until Wednesday’s press conference, when Lt. Gov. Josh Green was present, LG was kept off the stage. For those whose heads may be in the sand, LG is likely to be the most popular candidate to take the governor’s office in two years. That means he will be in a race with Caldwell, who, believe it or not, thinks he is ordained to be the next governor.

While most of us look at Caldwell askew and wonder how someone who has f-cked up things this much could ever imagine that he could be elected to higher office, Caldwell must think he can deflect the federal government’s involvement in the rail, the investigation of the Kealoha scandals and now this, the handling of COVID. We have the highest rate of infection per capita in the nation.

Thank you very much, Mayor Caldwell.

But this is why he kicked out LG again. He doesn’t want him to have any air time. And Green, being the gracious guy he is, soft petals his criticism of the administration. He seems to have pulled back from when he called for the removal of Anderson and Park.

So, without any proof, but knowing LG as a proficient and meticulous professional emergency room physician, I wouldn’t have put it past him to have reached out into his professional community of fellow physicians, including the Surgeon General (again, DOH Director Bruce Anderson is a Ph.D. and not a medical doctor) to point out that we are about to see our hospitals overrun with COVID patients and the state is in dire need of help. With a scientist’s eyes, looking at the facts, no responsible person could possibly deny that we are in grave trouble here.

While that is my unsupported presumption, it is also evident that the Mayor and the Governor could not have continued to ace Green out of the picture with the Surgeon General here, remaining to oversee the surge testing, the implementation of hiring contact tracers and the leasing of vacant hotels to house people who need to be in isolation.

It should also be noted that, with the free testing at multiple sites throughout Oahu, residents have flocked to get tested in droves. They are literally standing in groups, lined up waiting for hours to get tested… another super-spreading event right there because of systemic mismanagement. After all, aren’t people there because they suspect they have been exposed or they are experiencing symptoms? So why are they allowing them to congregate?

Stay home as much as you can. Wear a mask. Do not expose yourself to anyone. If you think you have been exposed, or feel ill, isolate and get tested. Be your own advocate and don’t trust the press or the government. DO WHAT YOU NEED TO DO TO KEEP YOUR FAMILY SAFE!

These are tough times and thanks to politics, they just got a lot tougher.

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