On 8/23, the governor of Hawaii said the following:
“Now is not the time to visit the islands,” Ige said at a news conference Monday. “It’s a risky time to be traveling right now.” He told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, “I think it’s important that we reduce the number of visitors coming here to the islands.”
One can understand his concern, given that hospital usage was at its highest point of the pandemic so far, at 419 beds. (I will refer to hospital beds throughout; ICU bed demand correlates extremely well with overall hospital bed demand in Hawaii.) However, his announcement made little sense on several levels:
- He waited way too long. By the time he made his announcement, derivative of the case count had already dipped, and it was clear the peak was near. In fact, cases on the big island peaked in late August, less than a week after his announcement. Hospital bed usage across the whole state peaked on 9/1, at 461 beds. To make an impact, he really needed to make his announcement three weeks sooner. It wasn’t exactly unpredictable that Delta would surge in Hawaii.
- His announcement was predicated on research from UH that suggested that cases would peak at 2000 or more per day in October. I could eyeball the case counts and tell you there was no way that would happen. More importantly, the most well-known modelers, like IMHE out of UW predicted cases would peak within the first week of September. That is indeed what came to pass, with case counts peaking around 9/3, at 895 per day, less than half of the projection, and at least a month early.
- Perhaps most importantly, IMHE and others project that hospital demands will bottom out in HI on 11/1. This means that mid to late October is actually pretty close to an optimal time to visit HI, in terms of visiting at a time when Covid is stressing hospital resources the least.
But the governor of HI apparently goes by the seat of his pants, and he’s doubled down on his “stay away” announcement and “urged patience for another two, four, six weeks.” Clearly he’s not quantitatively inclined. However, he’s optimistic things will improve in time for the holidays.
Unfortunately, IMHE does not agree. Currently, hospital bed demand is about 200 beds. The current project for Thanksgiving is 165 beds, rising to 217 beds by Christmas and 231 beds by New Year and then continuing to climb. Logic would dictate asking people to come right. now. or else closing Hawaii’s borders for the next several months.
Full disclosure – we’re traveling to the big island on 10/16. We planned the trip in February, and we will have to pull the kids from school for a week to quarantine afterwards, but by God, we’re going. The big island is one to two weeks ahead of the state as a whole in terms of Covid, so I figure our trip timing is pretty much optimal.
If you’ve been following NZ, they gave up on their zero Covid approach yesterday. With less than 50% of their eligible population (16+) fully vaccinated, they are in for a rough ride over the next six months.