What is Hawaii like during the COVID-19 Corona Virus

Keep in mind that this COVID-19 CoronaVirus in Hawaii is a moving target and the Hawaii COVID-19 news changes on a day-to-day basis.  I’m not going to talk about the CoronaVirus itself.  There is plenty of talk about that on many other websites that can give you authoritative information on that topic.  

I am going to talk about what it feels like in Hawaii during a crisis.  I will use this one specifically because I’m going through it right now and so all the fears and anxieties from the crises past are coming back into full force and it’s time to share. 

I’ve never lived through a national crisis as an adult on the mainland, so I really can’t tell you how Hawaii compares. What I can tell you is that it’s very scary in Hawaii and there are many reasons why.  Here’s what comes to mind:

We started the run on toilet paper

People all over the world now are scratching their heads as to why there is a run on toilet paper.  Allow me to put forth a theory and let me know what you think in the comments.

Runs on toilet paper all started in Hawaii 

This run on toilet paper is no news to us.  It happens here every time. Whether it’s a hurricane, tsunami, or COVID-19, one of the first things we stock up on is toilet paper. Why?

In what’s become local urban legend now, in 1971 there was a dock strike in Hawaii that lasted for 134 days, from the article:

“…store shelves slowly went bare, businesses crumbled and people lost their jobs. But one of the rarest commodities at that time was toilet paper because residents hoarded rolls as supplies began to dwindle.”

In Hawaii, we don’t have interstate highways where trucks can bring in goods from the outside. Our only method of interstate or international transportation is via ships that need to land at docks.  The docks were shut down, shelves cleared out, and we actually did run out of toilet paper. 

You could go without a lot of things in life but one of the few you absolutely cannot run out of are ways to clean yourself up – i.e. toilet paper.

So now, every time there’s a disruption, the older folks that ran out of toilet paper in the 70s are the first ones to run into Costco and buy the toilet paper.  

And now you know where it all started. And with good reason.

Isolation in Hawaii during COVID-19 CoronaVirus

Hawaii is the most remote location on earth, farther away from any landmass on the planet. When we get hurricane or tsunami warnings, it sure feels lonely here. We can’t run away or hide from what’s coming.  All we can do is brace ourselves and prepare as best as possible. Hurricanes are especially stressful because they take days to get here and it’s as if you have a killer monster coming to eat you so you refresh reports every few hours as you watch the monster get bigger, closer and scarier.

The COVID-19 CoronaVirus feels different.  It’s not like the inevitable hurricane. This time around, the isolation is giving us a degree of safety.  As of this writing, there are 14 COVID-19 CoronaVirus cases and only 1 of them are community spread (i.e. passed on from one to another).  Japan is the only country flying into Hawaii and the airports are natural chokepoints. All cruise ships are either grinding to a halt or being highly screened.  The isolation this time around feels like a blessing. It’s good that we’re as far away from any other place on earth as we can be.

Dependence on shipping during a crisis in Hawaii

The dock strike and toilet paper shortage in 1971 highlights an underlying fear everyone in Hawaii carries – what if shipping is disrupted?  Though shipping goods to and from Hawaii has never been stopped (strikes aside) in recorded history, it’s a real fear we all carry. We live in a modern world and we do not (nor, as some argue, can we) have self-sufficiency in Hawaii.  Not only is our toilet paper shipped in, but so is our energy. Solar panels make up 20% of our power grid during sunny days, but at night and cloudy days, our energy comes from coal, oil, and trash (burning trash drives power plants in Hawaii) and other than the trash, those fossil fuels come in via ship.

To put it simply, if in fact some major disaster were to happen and shipping to Hawaii disrupted, the results would be nothing short of catastrophic. Our dependence on shipping and fear of its disruption is something that permeates our thinking.  It’s the first thing that comes to mind when a crisis appears on the horizon and it’s what makes us run to Costco for toilet paper. 

Next episode: Food, economic impacts, and Hawaii’s saving grace

I’m going to wait for 2 weeks before sending out the next article on this topic. I’ll talk about the foods we depend on, what Hawaii’s economy feels like, and the most important thing about how we as a people cope with these situations.

My friends, we’re going through a crisis that I believe will go down in history as something as disruptive as a World War.  Please stay safe and take care of each other as best you can. You have a purpose to fulfill in this crisis. Find that purpose and express it as best you can. 

Stay safe, stay clean, and stay with those that matter to you most.