HNN town hall panelists discuss ‘new normal’: Masks, tourism, diversifying the economy

The New Normal - The Pandemic: A Year With Coronavirus

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - As Hawaii moves forward in recovering from and adapting to the circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic, one of Thursday’s panelists said wearing masks could continue into the future.

“I think we should plan for the long haul,” said Dr. Nadine Tenn Salle, chief of pediatrics at the Queen’s Medical Center. “Wearing masks is going to be a regular way in which we go out, interact in schools and society.”

Dr. Tenn Salle said that although vaccines are going to play an important role in reducing the risks of the virus, masks have been proven to limit the spread of COVID and are necessary to keep family and those around us safe.

State economists said tourism is key to bringing the economy back to pre-pandemic levels.

But they stress it should be done responsibly.

“We still have 70,000 people in Hawaii unemployed,” said Carl Bonham, director of the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization.

“In the short run, the one way to get our neighbors back to work is to safely bring back tourism and it will be a little bit uncomfortable ... because we’ve been operating with no tourists in the islands.”

In just the past week, more than 3,300 Hawaii residents filed for unemployment for the first time.

Bonham said while a short-term recovery is needed, the state also needs to diversify its economy. The sooner the Hawaii can do that, he added, the better.

The panel of Hawaii leaders discussed the “new normal” in the islands, including how the state has adapted a year into the pandemic and what needs to happen next.

Bonham said the new normal will depend on what occupation someone has or business they are in. Leisure, hospitality, construction and tourism will all be impacted differently and will need to adapt depending on Hawaii’s ability to reach herd immunity.

For more on the special series, The Pandemic: A Year with Coronavirus, click here.

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