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House Select Committee on COVID-19 Discusses Testing, Business Support, Leadership

Group reviews plans for reopening local economy, followed by tourism

Honolulu, Hawaiʻi The House Select Committee on COVID-19 Economic and Financial Preparedness held its fourth informational briefing today, focusing on plans to reopen Hawaiʻi’s economy post coronavirus, the benefits and limitations of virus testing, and federal support for local businesses and the state.

Committee member and Executive Director of the Economic Research Organization at the University of Hawaiʻi (UHERO) Carl Bonham and economist Sumner La Croix discussed their ideas for reopening the economy after the coronavirus contamination is under control in Hawaiʻi.

Their plan includes a two-step process of first reopening the local economy, safely allowing businesses to operate and workers to return to their jobs, followed by the measured return of tourism. Their plan includes government transparency of all virus-related data to allow residents to feel assured that future tourists will not be bringing the virus back into the state, and for tourists to know that Hawaiʻi is a safe destination for them to visit.

They said many conditions need to be met before the economy can fully resume, including the development of a vaccine, but that strong leadership will be needed to make critical decisions as we move the state from isolation to reopening.

Tim Brown, senior fellow of the East-West Center, started a discussion on testing people for the virus saying rapid turnaround of results along with a thorough contact tracing system are needed to get a better picture of who has virus and how it is spreading. 

Dr. Mark Mugiishi, President and CEO of the Hawaiʻi Medical Service Association, provided a detailed chart of the health infrastructure, including the screening, testing, tracking, and quarantine measures that need to be taken before we reopen the economy. He suggested we look to other states and countries to see what is working for them and apply some of those measures in Hawaiʻi.

Peter Ho, Committee Co-chair and President & CEO of Bank of Hawaii, supported these plans saying they are in line with what needs to be done to control the virus and to revive our economy. He said thousands of Hawaiʻi businesses have already applied for federal loans totaling several $100 million through the CARES Act Paycheck Protection Program which will boost the economy.

To see all documents submitted to the committee, go to https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/specialcommittee.aspx?comm=cov&year=2020

To watch the committee hearings, go to http://olelo.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=31.

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