Coronavirus ramblings and a lucky miss...
|Caroline on the Royal Promenade, Deck 5, Allure of the Seas. At double occupancy, the Allure has a capacity of 5,484 guests, plus 2,200 crew.|
This was an interesting time to be on a cruise ship. Caroline and I had left the Celebrity Edge for the Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas in January. On January 11, China reported the first coronavirus (COVID-19) fatality. On January 23, Chinese authorities closed off the metropolis of Wuhan, reporting 17 deaths and 570 cases. On January 31, the Trump administration suspended entry from any foreign traveler who had traveled to China in the past 14 days. On this date, 213 deaths had been reported and about 9,800 people were reported infected. On February 5th, crew and guests on the cruise ship Diamond Princess were quarantined in a Japanese port. On February 21, the number of worldwide cases topped 75,000.
After spending much of January on cruise ships with a very large international component, we arrived in Hawaii on February 3. Within the past 14 days, we had interacted with numerous people on two ships, including guests from China. You can't escape mingling, in the theater, in the dining areas, and in recreational areas.
As we deplaned in Honolulu (on February 3rd), there was no one asking us where we had been, or if we had any health issues. We simply walked off, got our luggage, and "Lyfted" away. Remember, this was on February 3rd.
Well, we weren't sick, and as far as I know, there are no reported cases in Hawaii at this time. But I'm not writing about any kind of "near-miss." I recognize that norovirus and influenza are the two big bad boys on cruise ships. Of course, no one wants to contract this coronavirus, either. And my involvement in prevention is the point of this article.
It just so happened that on February 5, there was a meeting of the Manoa Neighborhood Board, and an invited speaker was the director of the Hawaii Department of Health, Dr. Bruce Anderson.
|Director Anderson addressing the Manoa Neighborhood Board.|
I appreciated him taking the time to educate concerned citizens about the coronavirus outbreak and the approach Hawaii is taking to respond to it. He did mention that the flu infects and kills many more people every year, that most face masks are ineffective at protecting a person (but may be helpful by discouraging the touching of one's mouth and nose), and that the best way to protect yourself is washing your hands.
There is my cause... handwashing. I had already noticed that the public restrooms at Diamond Head State Monument, the City and County restrooms along Waikiki Beach, and the city-managed restrooms at the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve not only didn't have any soap, they didn't have any soap dispensers. So much for protecting yourself from whatever germs those almost 6 million annual visitors to Oahu bring!
After the meeting, I sent an email to Director Anderson:
Thanks for visiting with Manoa residents last week. I appreciated the heads up when it came to coronavirus management. I had a few thoughts that I wanted to bring to your attention.
1. You mentioned that the best coronavirus infection protective strategy is washing your hands. Indeed, this is really the first line of defense for so many communicable diseases. However, this past week I've noticed that public restrooms at Waikiki and Hanauma Bay, both heavily used by tourists, have no soap. Not even a dispenser! Talk about a failed first line of defense... do you have the power to declare the absence of this basic utility a public health emergency? The city (not the state) is failing miserably here.
2. As I listened to your presentation, I reflected that 3 days earlier, I had returned from a Caribbean cruise, with numerous people on board from Asian counties. Yet there was no question for me when I entered Hawaii. Perhaps the agricultural form that all visitors and residents are required to complete before entering the state needs to have a few questions regarding travel and health.
3. Finally, since the state now has quarantine facilities in readiness, I hope provisions have been made for keeping families together and engaged during any quarantine period.
Thanks for your service.
He replied within the hour. Talk about responsive public servants!
Excellent ideas, Robert!
I’ll contact the City about the restrooms.
As far as I know, all airline and cruise ship passengers are informed about the pandemic when they arrive and are provided a simple brochure informing them of the risks and preventive measures (hand washing, etc.). I’ll check with the folks at DOT airports and harbors when we have our multiagency meeting today. I agree that they should be notified regardless of where they went on the cruise.
Finally, I agree that we should keep families together as much as possible. We are generally recommending self-monitoring at home (with call-ins, etc.) so that we can keep family members together. Generally, individuals who are traveling together and don’t have a home here are put up in a hotel together if they require quarantine, too. So, I think we accomplish this in most situations.
Nationally, I have been pushing that asymptomatic individuals who are not close contacts of cases need to be quarantined in their home, wherever that is in the US, rather than being held here. We get better compliance with those that are comfortable and I think it is better for everyone. Most just want to go home. Unfortunately, HHS insists on a central quarantine facility, which doesn’t make sense to me.
Anyway, I appreciate the feedback.
Yesterday, there was a Manoa Neighborhood meeting (not to be confused with a neighborhood board meeting) sponsored by the city councilwoman representing the area (Ann Kobayashi) and the neighborhood's state representative (Dale Kobayashi) and senator (Brian Taniguchi). They invited Hawaii Lt. Governor Josh Green to attend. Dr. Green is a physician, and is the state's point person for its response to the coronavirus.
|Residents listening to Lt. Governor Green's presentation. I'm seated in the middle of this crowd.|
I had the opportunity to ask a question about soap in public restrooms, and he mentioned that both he and Dr. Anderson were stressing its importance to the city in meetings. In addition, he is advocating for automatic hand sanitizer dispensers to be placed throughout high-density areas.
So... I don't have the coronavirus, and I didn't spread COVID-19. But I'm going to pat myself on the back that I got the state telling the city to get the soap out!