Hawaii Legislature

Members of the state House are sworn in Honolulu in January. Lawmakers opened a new legislative session in the middle of a pandemic while wearing face masks.

An effective response to COVID-19

We recently spent time in the Hawaiian islands and saw what a reasonable and effective response to COVID really looks like. This is a state heavily dependent on tourism, yet only a few months ago was so overwhelmed by the disease that their governor asked visitors to stay away. Since then, they’ve implemented strict entry requirements (fully vaccinated or a recent negative PCR test) and have fully embraced masking requirements for indoor spaces.

With roughly the same vaccination rate as Colorado, per capita they now have less than half Colorado’s rate of COVID infections and related deaths. Hawaii does have a smaller population, but with far less land their population density is much higher than ours, so it’s not a matter of having fewer people or more space. Of course being islands, Hawaii is able to more easily control their borders, and has used this to good effect. What’s really impressive, though, is they take indoor masking and vaccination status seriously. Every store and restaurant has a “masks required” sign in the window, and they enforce it.

Bars and restaurants require that patrons be fully vaccinated, and they absolutely check these credentials; every patron, every time. It was very rare to see anyone inside a store unmasked, and not unusual to see employees reminding customers to properly wear their masks over mouth and nose. (With a virus that primarily lives in the nasal passages, not covering the nose is essentially the same as not wearing any mask). What we did not see was violence toward employees, mass protests, or petty whining about following reasonable precautions; locals and visitors alike seemed glad to have added protection against a deadly virus.

Contrast this to our local area, where almost nobody wears a mask indoors, and our rate of infection and death per thousand people is more than double Hawaii’s. So how did Hawaii rebuild their economy in the middle of a pandemic but achieve dramatically better COVID results than Colorado? No “tyrannical” government, no draconian measures; just caring people who love their fellow man enough to tolerate a little inconvenience in the interest of saving lives. And, yes, we can have that, too, if we model compassion and finally put an end to this terrible disease.

William Lidh

Colorado Springs

Rescuing abandoned Americans

As American citizens, their family members, and green card holders (i.e., legal permanent residents) remain trapped in Afghanistan after the inglorious U.S. withdrawal last August, the Biden administration has done little to help these individuals escape the barbarism of Taliban rule.

Administration estimates of the number of Americans remaining in Afghanistan have fluctuated wildly since the State Department claimed in early September that under 200, likely closer to 100, Americans were left behind. In late October, the Defense Department confirmed that nearly 450 Americans remained trapped in Afghanistan. In early November, the State Department informed Congress that 289 American citizens and as many as 14,000 legal permanent residents remained in Afghanistan. Last week, the State Department acknowledged that 479 American citizens and 450 green card holders had been evacuated from Afghanistan since the last Air Force aircraft departed Kabul one minute before midnight on Aug. 30.

Unsaid though is the fact that almost all of these individuals were rescued by private organizations run by U.S. veterans who continue to work assiduously behind the scenes to return abandoned Americans to the U.S. These organizations include Allied Airlift 21, AFGfree, Pineapple Express, Project Dynamo, and Task Force Argo. Rather than supporting the noble efforts of these organizations, the State Department has frequently hindered them through bureaucratic red tape and even blocking their negotiations with other countries to have them serve as intermediate stops for evacuation flights. This includes three flights organized by Task Force Argo that have been grounded for more than eight weeks with 1,200 souls waiting to be evacuated that include American citizens, green card holders and other at-risk individuals such as Catholic nuns.

Nonetheless, these private organizations persist in their efforts. A recent example is the successful evacuation from Kabul of 39 American citizens and green card holders, including a dozen children, by Project Dynamo. These individuals joyfully landed at JFK International Airport on Dec. 18 thanks to the heroic efforts of members of Project Dynamo who traveled to Afghanistan to facilitate their evacuation.

What can we do to facilitate the rescue of remaining Americans from Afghanistan? Write our elected leaders in Congress urging them to continue to press the administration to do all in its power to ensure the safe return of all American citizens, their family members, and green card holders, as well as provide an accurate accounting of those still left behind. Use social media to trumpet the successes of private organizations such as Project Dynamo.

And perhaps contribute to one or more of these organizations that continue to conduct rescue operations that our own government has failed to undertake.

Joe Baldwin

Colorado Springs

Comment on two viewpoints

In reading the two opinions in the Dec. 18 of “What grade would you give to 2021” I have an opinion.

Genevieve Wood had an open-minded rational, fact-based opinion. Rebekah Entralgo had a very closed mind opinion not based on facts and sticking with the “let’s divide this nation all we can” attitude. When she started off with “a deadly coup attempt” she declared what she was, a very unfortunate misinformed individual.

There was no coup attempt, but the left news media keeps pushing it, but many of us out here know better.

Larry A. Sportsman

Colorado Springs

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