My Turn: Hawaii National Guard invaluable amid pandemic

This is a “love letter” to the Hawaii National Guard, and a request for the people in my community. I am a retired nurse practitioner, and for the last 2.5 months, I have been volunteering twice a week with COVID-19 testing at Alii Health Center’s testing site in Keauhou.

On the first day, it was clear that we would have a hard time running this clinic without the help of the National Guard. Despite the fact that I was an Army “brat,” I knew very little about what these men and women did. They are, in many cities and states, positively invaluable. For our clinic, they set up the tents and tables, and do just about every job that needs to be done. They are efficient, professional, on-task, smart, and fun to work with. And when we have seen our 60 to 113 patients, they break down the tables and tents all over again. In the news, they are called to help out in disasters and emergencies all over the country: fires, hurricanes, floods; when the doo-doo hits the fan, call the “cavalry” (substitute National Guard), and they will work tirelessly and cheerfully until the job is done. Mahalo nui loa for all your hard work!

And while we are speaking about COVID-19, I would encourage my neighbors and friends and members of our community to continue to be vigilant about wearing masks, social distancing, and self-isolating if you are high-risk. Stay home if you feel sick or think you may have been exposed, but swing by Keauhou or one of the other testing sites and get a nasal swab done. It’s a little uncomfortable, but so is telling friends and family that you are COVID-positive a week or two down the road when you could have prevented spreading the virus if you knew earlier. Our goal is not to totally eradicate the virus, but to keep the numbers low until a vaccine is developed and distributed. New Zealand and Canada, two examples, have been successful at decreasing both cases and deaths by doing all of the above.

We’ll get through this, but we’ve still got a long way to go. Think of this pandemic as an ultra-marathon, not a 50-yard dash. Aloha to all the volunteers, and be well!

Toni Romp-Friesen is a resident of Honaunau.

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