My Turn: A clear and present danger

Michelle Melendez wrote in a letter to the editor published Monday that the flu killed 478 people 2015-16 in Hawaii, 526 in 2017-18, and 336 last year. She then says 70 have died of COVID-19 this year, and yet we have been subject to wearing face masks, stay-at-home orders, social distancing, school and business closures. She then complains about contact tracing saying “they can track you and detain you against your will.” This is a reckless distortion of facts to push a half baked conspiracy theory of government overreach.

Hawaii had enjoyed one of the nation’s lowest infection and death rates precisely because of the measures taken to protect our population. All it took for Oahu hospital capacity to be very nearly overrun was the attempt to reopen the economy, along with two holiday weekends. This along with the failure of the Department of Health to adequately provide for contact tracing, which the lieutenant governor had warned them about months ago, has resulted in weeks of double-digit and triple-digit community spread cases and a soaring death count.


In March, the World Health Organization estimated the mortality rate of COVID-19 to be 3.4%. Now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the mortality rate at 0.4%. That is still twice the mortality rate of the flu at 0.2%. The figure 0.4% is highly suspect because the CDC has been politicized by the Trump fact-free virus. As have all of the regulatory agencies, like the FDA, OSHA, Department of Justice, the Senate of the United States, voting rights, elections, etc. The death count in the U.S. will very soon exceed 200,000. The death count at the Hilo veterans home will continue to climb and so will the rate of infection, because off the inadequacy of contact tracing that would enable the containment of this virus.

COVID-19 is exponentially more contagious than the flu, has at least twice the death rate, and has been shown to have unforeseen long term negative health consequences for some survivors. The U.S. has 4% or 5% of the world’s population but 20% to 25% of the world’s COVID-19 cases, and the highest death count of any nation. The U.S. has a science denial leadership in all things. Our president says he alone can fix things, he claims to know more than doctors, scientists, and generals. He cannot learn anything because he is the authority on all things, and cannot be investigated, indicted or prosecuted for crimes because he is president.

It is a fact that asymptomatic people are transmitting this virus. We need to follow the best science available to contain the spread. We need to wash our hands, social distance at least 6 feet — more if indoors — properly wear our mask around others, test to identify infectious people, and isolate them, and contact trace, test and isolate those until they are cleared. If we do not do this, we will only prolong this economic pain and continue to lose loved ones needlessly.


I have never seen such a distortion of the use of the word “freedom” as in the Trump era. Used to shirk social responsibility, denigrate others, deny people their constitutional rights, oppress people who are different, outright commit crimes, as license to tell lies. These behaviors are not patriotic, and certainly do not advance the aspirations of freedom and justice for all, and equal protection under the law. They are in fact perverse in intent and certainly do not reflect any sense of aloha aina or aloha.

Leslie Iijima is a resident of Waikoloa.