The summer is here, school is out, our state is slowly reopening, the economy is rebounding, recovery efforts continue, and yet there is a lingering feeling of cautiousness as people figure out their own realities for a new normal. With 57 percent of Hawaii’s population vaccinated, we are on our way to the 70 percent benchmark the Governor has set to fully reopen the state and lift current restrictions including the use of masks indoors. Governor Ige anticipates the state will reach the 60 percent vaccination mark in early July and starting July 8 will no longer require a pre-travel COVID test from fully vaccinated visitors from the U.S. mainland. Fully vaccinated travelers will need to show their vaccine card and upload it to the state’s Safe Travels website to bypass the pre-travel testing requirement.
This week we learned that Hawai‘i has evidence of community spread of the Delta variant, which now makes up 20 percent of new COVID-19 cases in the United States. Adults and youth 12 years and older are eligible for the vaccine and we encourage you to learn more about how you can do your part to eliminate COVID-19. During the month of June, businesses statewide have stepped up to incentivize vaccinations, visit higotvaccinated.com to learn about discounts, and enter for weekly prizes.
The pandemic turned the world upside down in ways that impacted physical and psychological health and wellbeing, burdened our medical and social systems alike, and shined a spotlight on the serious, long-standing inequities in our country. Hawai‘i, while lauded by some as a multicultural paradise, is not immune from the systemic racism that plagues the U.S. Following a year of growing awareness about the realities of police violence against Black, Indigenous, and people of color, newly released details and body camera footage surrounding the killings of Iremamber Sykap, a 16-year-old Micronesian boy, and Lindani Myeni, a Black South African father of two, at the hands of the Honolulu Police Department — some details of which contradict initial statements from HPD — have emphasized the tragic consequences of a lack of de-escalation, and underscored the need for policing reform. There is an inextricable link between safe communities and public health outcomes and we recognize the burden that is disproportionately carried by communities of color in Hawaiʻi. Our communities cannot feel safe if they cannot trust the officers charged with serving and protecting them. And yet, despite this growing awareness and national momentum to change the role of police, despite clear need and broad community support locally, the Hawai‘i State Legislature failed to pass a single police reform measure in 2021. We must do better.
The U.S. recently declared June 19, also known as Juneteenth, as a federal holiday to commemorate the end of slavery. While we applaud this step, there is much work that remains to dismantle white supremacy and eliminate systemic racism in our country. This year, HIPHI proudly supported a resolution that was ultimately adopted in both chambers, which acknowledged the violence of colonization and racism in Hawai‘i for what it is — a public health crisis. Without further action and implementation of this framework, however, the resolution will merely be yet another symbolic gesture.
As we prepare for the next legislative session, we will build on this foundation of understanding through our work by pushing for the integration of public health strategies that address primary prevention and community-built and based solutions to better address the public health crisis created by racism. We will take our cues from the leaders of our communities most affected by health inequities. And we will call upon our elected officials to take brave, meaningful action. As activist Mariame Kaba once said, “nothing that we do that is worthwhile is done alone”; we look forward to your partnership and advocacy as we advance towards a more equitable Hawaiʻi.