I have a friend who lives in Hawaii. She moved there from Germany several years ago. Both she and her husband were military, and both have retired from active duty. Now they have decided to settle there for a few years. One would think that would be a delight, but Hawaii has its problems. When there’s no pandemic going on, people who live there complain about high prices, low availability of goods, dense populations, and traffic jams. When there is a pandemic going on, people seem to lose their damned minds.
Coronavirus has thrown a wrench in everyone’s plans, but I think it’s especially crazy in the Aloha state right now. There’s a mandatory 14 day quarantine if you visit Hawaii, and the authorities are very serious about enforcing it. When visitors arrive at the airport, they have to give the officials their contact information, including where they’ll be staying. Hotel staff watches who comes and goes from the hotels, and they are quick to report people who hit the beaches or go shopping. My friend in Hawaii belongs to a neighborhood Facebook group and people are asking about how to report tourists who break the rules.
Many people being arrested are tourists, not everyone shows up in Hawaii for a vacation. Alyza Alder, 18, arrived in Hawaii and got a job working at a fast food restaurant. She posted about it on Facebook and was quickly hunted down and rolled up by the police. Another visitor from Oregon, 20 year old Artyon Zhiryada, was picked up not just for violating quarantine, but also because he posted a video of himself on social media shooting a chicken. A 51 year old mother named Misty Lynn Beutler was arrested after being caught leaving her son’s home and walking his dog. 23 year man from New York, Tarique Peters was arrested after posting pictures of himself at a Hawaiian beach on social media.
It seems to me that it’s a really dumb idea to post pictures on social media if you’re breaking the law… or even if you’re just bending the rules. A lot of people out there enjoy being snitches. Some people just get a kick out of meddling in other people’s business, especially when they can make themselves feel good about it because of a pandemic. They can say to themselves, “by turning in these people, I might be saving lives.” And indeed, that could be true… but it’s also the kind of behavior that stokes distrust, derision, and ill will toward all.
My friend in Hawaii reports that shopping has become extremely stressful, with everyone watching their neighbors for infractions of the social distancing and mask wearing rules. Then, they go on social media to post about what they see… or leave contemptuous comments about another person’s mask wearing techniques. Although I can see their points about the importance of such things at a time like this, I also think that kind of attitude makes things more difficult than they need to be. I wouldn’t want Hawaii to experience what people in Spain, particularly the children, are experiencing right now.
About a month ago, I blogged about the potential for mental health problems to develop or worsen due to the COVID-19 hysteria. This morning, I read about how children in Spain, who were completely locked down for six weeks straight, are significantly traumatized. Spain was hit very hard by COVID-19, so back in March, the government made it illegal for children to be outside of their homes at all. The restrictions finally eased a little bit in late April, and children were allowed outside for an hour. By that time, a lot of them were so terrified and stressed out by the draconian lockdown that they had no interest in going outside. Some had developed physical symptoms like eye tics, insomnia, and stomach pains. One woman interviewed for The New York Times said that her daughter had suffered such trauma that the first time she went outside, she was very nervous about being harassed by the police. And since that one trip outside, she has not wanted to go out again.
Granted, in Spain, things were pretty extreme. In Valencia, where there are beautiful beaches, police were flying helicopters over parks and beaches and blaring commands to respect the police from loudspeakers. At night, they shone spotlights that invaded people’s homes. Imagine being a small child and enduring that. I’m sure anyone who was in Europe in the 1930s and 40s might be able to relate somewhat. It’s something they won’t forget, and some may never get over it the trauma.
People in Morocco, where the COVID-19 infections have also been high and the government response has been draconian, are similarly afraid to go out. One mother of two teens said that her children are now petrified of going out, getting sick, and dying. I’m sure that will make it harder for them as they become adults and prepare to launch on their own. Most people will eventually recover once this threat passes, but there will be some who will stay traumatized.
I haven’t read of similar tactics in Hawaii yet. From what I’ve read, Hawaii hasn’t come close to the situation that Spain was facing. My friend in Hawaii reports that overall infections are low. In fact, I verified her numbers:
And I get that local officials want to keep it that way… Just seventeen deaths and most people recovering is a good thing, after all. But people are still acting like they’re going to die immediately if anyone breaks or bends the rules. My friend says that people are snapping at and scolding each other in the stores, lecturing each other online, and looking for ways to be “responsible citizens” by snitching on their neighbors and strangers. That sure doesn’t make Hawaii sound like the paradise it’s usually made out to be in the travel brochures.
I’m glad to see that my friend has a sense of humor about all of this, though. She’s even posting hilarious satire from The State of Hawaii’s Facebook page. Some of it is pretty believable. For instance, the other day she posted a satirical Facebook post from that page about how wash room attendants who make sure everyone washes their hands properly is a thing. However, bathroom attendants are becoming an actual thing in some places on the mainland. I shared with her a non-satirical article mentioning a Texas barbecue restaurant that has hired a “bathroom monitor” to make sure everyone properly socially distances in the restrooms. My natural observation about this new “career” opportunity is that it sounds like a shitty job with hours that stink.
People are legitimately anxious about catching COVID-19 or being responsible for spreading it. And the anxious people are winding up head to head with the people who insist that their freedoms are being violated by rules regarding social distancing, hygiene, and mask apparel. I have seen some people getting berated because they prefer to wear a face shield instead of a mask. The shields offer some benefits to the masks, though. For one thing, they allow faces to be seen and there’s less fogging. For another, they allow for more air flow and less heat and moisture, which for the hotter climates is a good thing. And they are also a lot easier to clean and don’t have to be thrown away as frequently.
People who have to wait tables or bartend with masks are experiencing acne and having trouble communicating with guests. Some have reported having trouble breathing, too. Although lots of people are quick to say “get over it” and “buck up” as they bring up how medical professionals wear masks all the time, I would hasten to add that people who work in healthcare made a choice to enter a field that requires masks. Until three months ago, people in the United States weren’t expected to wear face masks as a general rule. On the plus side, at least the females who are in the hospitality business don’t have to hear things like “You’d be so much prettier if you smiled.”
We are definitely living in weird times right now. I really hope this doesn’t end up being the “good old days” as time passes.