After reading some opinions about the process of “should we re-open the island or not” I thought I would drop a few words. I lived on Orcas for 27 years and island life is different, in that you have the ability to step away from the mainland and have some control over your territory. I also have just spent 5 months living on Kauai, from December through April, and experienced the island behavior there through the beginning fear of a pandemic, beginning cases coming in from the mainland and the handling of lockdown.
What struck me most about the way Hawaii and the county of Kauai handled it, was first and foremost, the spirit of Ohana or family. Everyone is family, and keeping everyone safe is the first priority. So everyone wore masks without complaining, most working people had no jobs for about a month and some even now, as the stay-at-home continues until the end of May. The beaches were empty, people stayed home unless they absolutely had a doctor’s appointment, needed groceries, or got out to exercise. Mainlanders that still tried to fly in and stay were put in quarantine in their place of residence for two weeks, and if they didn’t abide by that, they were literally tracked down by the police and either fined or sent back to the mainland. People tried to support those restaurants that did take-out so they could survive the closure. Farmer’s Markets were closed, so people made the effort to get farm fruit and vegetables as a pick up to support the farmers, after all, plants don’t stop growing, do they? Hotel employees, who had no guests at all as tourism and flights were stopped, voluntarily organized free meals once a week that were picked up as drive-through. The last delivery while I was there were 1,000 meals. People took care of people in any way they could. They all knew that shutting down tourism to stop the inflow of COVID-19 was going to reverberate through their economy for years, but the first priority was to keep everyone safe. The highest number of cases was 16, and that is now down to zero.
Kauai, without the crowds of tourists, is about the same population as Orcas. I love Orcas, and it will always seem like a home to me, and I hope that islanders will consider long and hard about the first priority, keeping all your family safe.