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  • Hawai‘i
  • 'Umi Perkins (bio)

Reviews of American Sāmoa, Cook Islands, French Polynesia, Norfolk Island, Rapa Nui, Tokelau, Tuvalu, and 'Uvea (Wallis) and Futuna are not included in this issue.


Like in most parts of the world, the ramifications of the covid-19 pandemic were perhaps the single most important issue in Hawai'i during the period under review. As the vaccine became available in early 2021, Governor David Ige slowly lifted restrictions on visitors, businesses, and gatherings by residents. By June 2021, 61 percent of Hawai'i residents had received at least one shot of one of the available vaccines (Cocke 2021).

As in parts of the US continent, there was resistance in some areas to wearing masks. In October 2020, the Hawai'i Department of Health reported that mask wearing was highest on O'ahu (where the majority of the population resides) at 85 percent and lowest on Kaua'i at 50 percent (Blair 2020).

Some semblance of normalcy returned to Hawai'i's visitor industry in late 2020. As Hawaii News Now reported in October, prior to the reopening of tourism, "Beaches in Waikiki were relatively empty—with plenty of space to socially distance. And for the most part, people were spread out along Kalakaua Avenue, too. About three-quarters of them were wearing masks. But as travelers start to return, crowds will likely be more difficult to avoid. To avoid confusion, [Lieutenant Governor Josh] Green says rules need to be the same for everyone across the board. 'Simply having everyone mask up outside their home makes the most sense'" (Blair 2020).

An uptick in covid-19 cases was already being seen by that time, and slightly varying county and state regulations made the situation on O'ahu confusing. While restrictions were in place for "unstructured" gatherings, "restaurants, malls, retailers, spiritual organizations, gyms, and personal services [were] allowed to continue operating as long as they 'police' their customers or patrons to ensure they wear masks" (Hawaii News Now 2020).

As the covid-19 pandemic continued in the period under review, it took a toll on Hawai'i businesses. In September 2020, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported that over fifty Hawai'i restaurants had closed, including some iconic venues such as Like Like Drive Inn (Honolulu Star-Advertiser 2020).

When online learning became the predominant educational delivery mode due to the pandemic, the Hawai'i Department of Education chose the company Acellus to develop content for its schools. However, as Hawaii News Now reported, challenges soon emerged: "'Since implementing the program, several concerns have been expressed regarding [End Page 185] the appropriateness and rigor of the curriculum provided in Acellus,' [an administrator at] Nimitz Elementary said. Critics say the program's founder was also tied to a cult" (Lund 2020). Hawai'i Board of Education chair Catherine Payne announced in October 2020 that the Hawai'i Department of Education would discontinue its use of Acellus (Lee 2020).

The pandemic contributed to already decreasing enrollments in the University of Hawai'i system. Total enrollment on all campuses decreased slightly from 51,063 in 2018 to 49,594 in 2020. However, the decrease over a decade was more than 10,000 (from 60,090 in 2010) (dbedt 2020). The flagship Mānoa campus saw a slight increase between 2019 and 2020, from 17,490 to 18,025, but this marked a decline from its decade high of 20,429 in 2011 (dbedt 2020). University of Hawai'i President David Lassner, when questioned on this change, responded that it was due to an initiative that helped students graduate in four years. The two-year community colleges saw the most precipitous enrollment decline, from 34,203 in 2010 to 25,236 in 2020 (dbedt 2020).

The pandemic also had a heavy impact on the economy. The Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (dbedt) for the State of Hawai'i reported that Hawai'i's gdp was us$89 billion for 2020, which was down from us$95 billion for 2019 (dbedt 2020). A per capita gdp of us$63,000 was reported in 2020 for a population of 1.407 million residents, which was also down from...


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pp. 185-190
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