Medical expert weighs in on when state might reboot tourism (and how)

Dr. David Agus is optimistic we could see a vaccine by September of this year

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii could begin to reopen the state for tourism as early as this summer, CBS News medical contributor Dr. David Agus said.

“I think what’s going to happen is by the end of June, we’re going to start to see visitors in places, but it’s going to be done in a very thoughtful fashion,” Agus said, in an interview Tuesday on HNN.

Agus said Hawaii is on track to reopen to visitors as long as it’s done in a “logical, data-driven” fashion, which would require steps like antigen testing, a diagnostic test recently developed for coronavirus.

“Enabling people to get quick tests at home before they board a plane is very powerful,” Agus said, adding that planes are usually equipped with HEPA filters that recirculate the air, making air travel safer than one might think.

“I do think you can have testing at a location and then go to Hawaii in a very safe data-driven fashion. I think it's going to be possible.”

Of course, he said, as Hawaii — and the rest of the mainland — continues to see cases of COVID-19, he acknowledges that “we’re not out of the woods.” It’s how we react to the new cases that will make all the difference, including isolating individuals and contact tracing, he said.

Another hopeful development: Agus said he’s optimistic a vaccine could even be ready in the fall as several candidates are in development. It’s all dependent on three factors: technology, using the backbones of other vaccines and philanthropists and governments funding the efforts.

If it happens by the fall, perhaps schools can even reopen by then, he said. But it will look far different than it did prior to this pandemic.

Whether it’s reopening schools or businesses, Agus it’s critical that everyone works together in acting responsibly by normalizing behaviors like wearing masks and practicing social distancing.

That’s key to ultimately stopping the spread of the virus, he said.

“It’s a sign that I respect my ohana, my family, everyone around me," Agus said.

“I think we really need to change our culture in the regard and start thinking about others. If we do that as a society, we’re going to do very, very well. The state of Hawaii will do very well.”

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