Friday, June 26, 2020

My June Commentary on Trump and the Pandemic, Masks, and Hawaii Tourism

The late June Covid-19 situation in AZ, FL and TX (see 1) is a second chance for Trump to re-set his stance on the pandemic, for a chance to win. Or he can double down on absurdities and toast himself... because he isn't losing thanks to Biden's abilities and platform.

A consistent, transparent and measured response to the virus will do it:
  • Promote open air activities,
  • Use disinfection,
  • Keep distancing,
  • Use masks in crowded environs, and
  • Educate people with Covid-19 pre-conditions to avoid crowded indoor environments (even with family and friends.)
The anti-mask rhetoric has become absurd: We all know that decades of use of masks by doctors, nurses and the Japanese did not asphyxiate them, and did not turn them into communist peons or face covering Muslims. Relax and protect yourself. Remember the virus loves a crowd and gets to you via the nose or mouth.

Use your common sense. For example, my common sense says to use the mask inside a Costco or any supermarket because some isles are crowded and usually someone will cough or sneeze during the time I am there. My common sense says to pass on using the mask at Costco gas or any gas station. It's open air, I'm there for 2-3 minutes only, and typically there's nobody near me.

It doesn't matter much what rules Hawaii will establish for tourism... Given the anti business mindset of the people in charge, Hawaii will make itself even less attractive than other sunny places, thus prolonging its economic misery.

The facts are these: (1) airport travel volume is around 10% compared to 2019, (2) no large hotels will open to operate at 10% capacity and at nearly 100% cost, and (3) marketing Hawaii as a safe destination makes little sense since it involves a 12 or 17 hour round trip in an airplane from California or Japan; this is a much higher risk than time spent at the beach or in a spaced out restaurant.

Bottom line, tourism will happen at its own terms, not at ours. Politicians and regulators are clearly part of the problem in this arena, in making rules that mostly inconvenience Hawaii based travelers.


Note (1): That's the problem with summer... hot and humid weather in AZ, FL, TX, etc. which makes the outdoors less inviting for long periods, and air conditioned spaces highly desirable... thus crowding many people in enclosed spaces with recirculating chilled air. Just what the virus needed for spreading. On a positive note, the crowds seem to include less vulnerable people, so in some states case numbers are way up, but Covid-19 fatalities are nowhere near what NY had in March.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Memorial Day Did Not Increase Covid-19 Cases in the US

Daily data on new cases of Covid-19 in the US show that Memorial Day celebrations, widely reported to have causes masses to enjoy themselves with no adherence to social distancing, did not cause a spike a cases. 

In the data below,
  • Week 1 ends on Memorial Day and has a total of 157,584 new cases
  • Week 2 follows and has a total of 140,056 new cases, and 
  • Week 3 has a total of 951 new cases

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Date for Rail to Be up and Running Pushed Back

KITV interview

I note that City DTS Director Frycztaki provided a lie instead of an applicable reason for the delay. He said the delay is due to the PPP bid deadline being moved due to Covid-19, but the PPP affects the final segment of the rail. The opening of the rail is for the "completed" segment from Kapolei to the airport...

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Letter to Governor to Open Up Small Business and Interisland Air Travel

I appreciate the written response by the governor's office to the letter I helped compose urging him to open up all small business in Hawaii that can comply with reasonable rules. I hope that he'll get to it soon.

WHEREAS every business is essential; there is no such thing as non-essential business when it comes to generating jobs and taxes for the state,

WHEREAS thousands of small businesses in Hawaii, many of them family owned and operated, are at risk of failure if the current restrictions are not lifted soon,

WHEREAS a recent AXIOS report indicated that 90% of the nation’s small farmers could go out of business if restaurants are forced to operate at diminished capacity during the height of harvest season this summer,
  
WHEREAS restoring the function and capacity of our community-based businesses is an essential first step in the long road to Hawaii’s economic recovery,

WHEREAS we small business owners are fully capable of caring for our employees and protecting our customers; we are confident that we can operate safely in the best interests of the community,

WHEREAS reopening interisland travel is critical for connecting our islands and testing inspection systems in anticipation of the recovery of tourism later this summer,

WHEREAS time is of the essence to reduce the long-term economic harm being done to our state, as each day that we continue with these restrictions deepens the pain and extends the recovery time by an ever-increasing amount,

THEREFORE, WE CALL ON our Governor and Mayors to reopen business within the State of Hawaii, support the efforts of small business to restore employment to tens of thousands of Hawaii residents, and provide the necessary monitoring and metrics to ensure the safety of the public as our state begins the difficult process of recovery.

SUGGESTED ACTIONS AND METRICS

  • Allow all businesses in Hawaii to open as soon as they can fully comply with state and county country mandates regarding social distancing (including mask wearing), hygiene and safety, without regard to their previous status as essential or non-essential.
  • Allow the Department of Health to enact emergency rulemaking to adapt National Restaurant Association best practices guidelines for all Hawaii food establishments. This will allow proprietors to procure the materials and adopt the procedures necessary to reopen safely.
  • Open airports to interisland travel with a safety plan that may include temperature scans at the arriving gates and holding space for those found having a fever.
  • Maintain Covid-19 testing and new case reporting against a clearly articulated set of targets. Establish metrics by which social and business restrictions may be re-imposed if deemed necessary to ensure that Hawaii’s health care system is able to meet the demands of this ongoing crisis.
  • Create an action plan for a private/public initiative to restore Hawaii’s small business sector, with a goal to reopen all small businesses no later than June 1.
  • Establish a task force composed of members of Hawaii’s small business community to help advise governmental decision-makers during the three phases of the economic restoration process: Reopening, Recovery and Revitalization. This includes giving voice not only to small business owners, but also the employees, vendors and customers who rely on their continued success.
SMALL BUSINESS SIGNATORIES
·        Steve Haumschild, Managing partner of 5 Hawaii-based businesses
·        Theodore A Peck, Holu Energy and Tian Shan Renewable Energy
·        Don Mangiarelli, General Manager, Enterprise Technology Solutions
·        Roy Skaggs, RJS Renewable Solutions, LLC
·        Elizabeth Kellam, Hawaii Association of Realtors, Honolulu Board of Realtors
·        Maki Kuroda, President, E Noa Corporation
·        Michael Kissel, Owner of Specities Hawai’i Inc.
·        Steven Sullivan, VP at Parallel Capital Partners and board member Kaka’ako Improvement Association
·        Natalie Iwasa, CPA, CFE
·        Laura Brown, Soundmix LLC
·        Phil Bruno, ARA Hawaii
·        Mark Storfer, VP Hilo Hattie
·        Dale Evans, CEO, Charley's Taxi
·        Suzanne Johnsen Green, Owner Plato’s Closet Honolulu
·        Forrest Shoemaker, Owner Hilton Group, Hawaii Candle & POS Paper Supply
·        Nancy Nino, Owner, Aloha Organizers LLC

OTHER SIGNATORIES
·        Clif Purkiser, Board of Directors, Pacific Historic Parks
·        Joseph A Ferguson, IT Admin-Leeward Community Church, U.S. Coast Guard Reservist
·        Peter Kay, Facebook moderator
·        Panos D. Prevedouros, UH Manoa
·        Byron Riddle
·        Richard M Fong
·        Miki Martins
·        Carol Ai May
·        Kendall Shimabukuro
·        Paul Orem
·        Gregg and Robin Stueber
·        Sharon Rasos

Monday, April 27, 2020

Why Did Gov. Ige Lock Hawaii Down Till May 31?

Governor Ige's position on Covid-19 for Hawaii makes little sense and lacks scientific base. Let me show you evidence of this fact first.

Let's compare Hawaii with several European countries. All the countries shown in the table below, except for Spain, had a moderate challenge with the Covid-19 epidemic. Although in Hawaii many more stores and businesses remained open in the last several weeks, and tourism is still occurring at roughly five percent of its usual pace, Hawaii's new cases of Covid-19 are tiny. Also recall that roughly one third of neighboring island new cases were centered at the Maui Memorial Hospital.


When adjusted for population, the four European countries shown in yellow average 27 daily new cases. At the same 7-day interval, Hawaii's case number is 10 and Honolulu's is 6!

Now let's look at the number of deaths due to to Covid-19 per one million population as of today:
  • Spain (472),  Germany (64), Denmark (68), Austria (59), Norway (35), and Hawaii (11)*
These five Eurorean countries in The Economist analysis are opening schools and small shops in the second half of April. At the same time, gov. Ige locked Hawaii down till May 31. As a result, Hawaii's already poor public education system will stay shut and deprive Hawaii's children from two months of education. Almost all small businesses are prohibited from opening.

So let's address the main question: The data clearly show that Hawaii's governor has taken caution and conservatism to an unusual level. Is this due to a lack of understanding or politics? It cannot be the former. Hawaii's Covid-19 case numbers are low both in absolute and relative terms; clearly the threat to public health and safety is minimal.

It is becoming increasingly clear that gov. Ige is waiting for other Democrat governors to show him the way, instead of doing what the numbers suggest: Reopen Hawaii (internally.) If he allowed Hawaii to re-open, then he'll run the risk of being accused that he follows the lead of Republican governors. Nationally, Republican governors plan to re-open their state economies or have kept them open, whereas Democrat governors tend to maintain lock downs.

Gov. Ige's 6th Proclamation of April 25, 2020 also included a provision that mayors cannot allow more freedoms unless he OK's them first.

Interestingly, the day before Ige's proclamation, the Wall Street Journal published a remarkable article titled: "The Bearer of Good Coronavirus News -- Stanford scientist John Ioannidis finds himself under attack for questioning the prevailing wisdom about lockdowns." There is increasing evidence that outside regions that must flatten the hospitalization demand curve to a manageable level (i.e., New York City) lock downs are unnecessary and detrimental to the natural process of herd immunity which is the only real weapon against a virus for which there is no vaccine or treatment.

You may like to think that we are all in it together, but politicians are all about partisan politics and control. UPDATE: On May 4, The New York Times depicted the political divide in reopening America. See image below.

(*) All Hawaii Covid-19 data reported in this post were taken from Hawaii Department of Health Covid-19 website and are directly comparable to the data in the The Economist analysis.


Sunday, April 26, 2020

Welcome Message to Incoming Fall 2020 Civil Engineering Students




Panos D. Prevedouros, PhD
Chairman and Professor of Transportation Engineering | Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
College of Engineering | University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
O (808) 956-9698 | F (808) 956-5014
2540 Dole Street, Holmes Hall 383 | Honolulu, HI 96822
pdp@hawaii.edu

Thursday, April 23, 2020

2nd Call for Re-opening Hawaii's Local Economy... We're Getting Closer

When I think of a small place with a vulnerable existence, I think of Israel. They are resource poor, dependent on outside support, too few, and their neighbors want them gone or worse. They cannot afford to die off due to disease or other internal reasons.

See slide 13 in the Governor's plan: Israel is reopening. What are Israel's statistics compared to Hawaii? (Scaled down 6x since it has about 9M population). 

Israel Covid-19 cases: 2,323, deaths: 30. Hawaii has 584 cases and 10 deaths.

There is no reason for Hawaii to have a lock-down and a closed local economy. We can open on May 1, with protections for high risk groups.

And after weighing outside risk factors, around June 1, we can start accepting a maximum of 1, then 2 and perhaps 3 flights per hour around 4th of July, from selected origins (for up to 10,000 tourists in late July compared to about 30,000 per day in 2019.) Keep the 10,000 cap until September and then re-assess.

The gradual opening in June with up to 3,000 K tourists per day in the first two weeks gives us time to finalize a process for the thorough screening, testing and paperwork for each visitor.


Thursday, April 16, 2020

Honolulu Rail Is a Massive Failure. It Will Be Public Health Enemy No. 1



Dear Elected Officials, Journalists and Media Experts,

After the Covid-19 scare and the face masks go away, the fear of infection will linger for a long while. And the threat of another type of infection in a few years is very real... SARS, MERS, H1N1, Covid-19... all came in the last 20 years. 

A major question is this: How many people will be willing to use a mode of transportation where others breathe, sneeze and cough 2-3 feet from their face, and should they?


 The information above should give you pause.  Honolulu Rail has been a massive failure. Continuing it makes it public health enemy number one.

Aloha,
Panos

Monday, April 13, 2020

First Call to Plan for Re-opening the Local Economy in Hawaii

My Facebook post is the first call I know of in Hawaii that offered some specific steps to re-open sectors of our local economy at specific dates given the tiny rate of infections and hospitalizations in Hawaii. As of this update, the post has 170 likes, 299 comments and 69 shares.

Hawaii hardly has a Covid-19 problem. Our hospitals are not busy. The calls for new curfews, more mask usage and policing beaches with drones are verging on the ridiculous! 

Local politicians are on an one-upmanship game for restrictions, instead of getting busy with charting a path for the long-term control of Covid-19 cases, and actions to recover our economy.

For example, the governor and his advisors should seriously consider this: All activities with up to two dozen people should be allowed starting on May 1... small businesses, small restaurants, small classes, small meetings, etc. Also, inter-island flights should be free to operate with no restrictions on May Day and beyond.


The majority of the comments were positive, but there were a few that fiercely opposed to any reduction in restrictions.  Clearly some of the latter were emotional.

I copy a few of the more interesting comments below:
  • Uniform mass quarantine is absolutely the wrong tactic. Select quarantine of elderly/high risk while the rest are encouraged to practice good habits and get us that herd immunity we desperately need but will not get under current conditions. This is just prolonging the issue.
  • New Zealand preparing to end lockdown after success in coronavirus battle
  • I think the blanket stay at home is probably not necessary after 4/30, but I’m not an epidemiologist, so I want them to look seriously at the best models relative to our state. I think some of what we are doing is just because they’re doing it in other states, such as the practices in some stores.
  • Has Sweden Found the Right Solution to the Coronavirus?
  • Everyone is walking around in complete fear. No one will look at another person if they pass in the street. I walk and people move to the street to avoid me. Someone posted walkers and runners beware, you could breath the air of an infected person. Seriously? People are ratting out their neighbors, others are cursing at people who came here on vacation. Get a grip!
  • I went and yeah the Hospital was a ghost town !!!!!!!
  • "... there are 535 ventilators in Hawaii and 65 are currently in use, while 97 ICU beds are being used out of 338." 
  •  For a fact I know that the employees at Straub on King Street have had their hours reduced due to a lack of patients. There are not enough COVID cases to make up for the denial of service to regular needs.
  • I didn't have time to read all 229 comments, But I spent 41 years in the wine and spirits business and it is time to open the Islands business. I suggest we continue to lock out "All" visitors ( for another month ) so we locals can enjoy, patronize our hotels, restaurants and shops on the Island for the good of the Island
  • Agreement with Sweden's actions -- Epidemiologist: Coronavirus could be ‘exterminated’ if lockdowns were lifted
  • No doubt NY is a mess, but it is  localized and the rest of the country is not in any panic stage. I think we all had it in Hawaii and California as we have many Chinese coming into our states.  We have likely developed herd immunity but the governors will take credit for keeping the curve down due to their quick response and unprecedented stupidity to kill the economy.
  • Citizen news on empty hospitals and media hype; New York, Ohio, Hawaii.


Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Interesting and Somewhat Contrarian Covid-19 Data

  • The picture above circulates on Twitter but the URL for the CDC website does not match what is shown. If the data are correct, they suggest fewer deaths from pneumonia since November 2019 because more deaths were likely attributed to Covid-19.










Saturday, April 4, 2020

Coronavirus: Light at the End of the Tunnel


  • On March 11, the World Health Organization declared a Covid-19 pandemic
  • On March 12, Hawaii decided that all large events are canceled. Disneyland announced its closing.
  • On March 13, Pres. Trump declared a 'state of emergency' in the U.S.
Right then I started collecting data for the World and for the US. All my data were taken around noon from ncov2019.live, and rounded up to nearest hundred cases.

Here is the summary of my data and projections which suggest that there is light at the end of the tunnel.


The first three graphs show the number of cases for three weeks starting in mid-March. The second graph suggests that a change has occurred and that the rate of daily growth has started declining. The third graph suggests that daily growth has become 'permanently' under 20% and declining. The fourth graph summarizes these three weeks of 21 daily data points and shows a clear downward trend.

In this writing, the last data point was collected at noon on April 4. Where do we go from here? 

If the rate of decline is slow, as the third graph suggests, then the shape of new cases will follow the red line on the bottom graph. New cases will peak at the very end of April. Around mid-May, the new cases in the US will be the same as now at about 300,000 per day. This is a likely scenario. The likely maximum of infections in the U.S will be about 35 million, and the maximum of new daily cases of will be about 1.2 million.

If the rate of decline is fast, as the fourth graph suggests, then the shape of new cases will follow the yellow line on the bottom graph. New cases will peak around April 15 and on May 15, the US will record only 100 new cases. This is a wonderful statistical outcome but not likely to occur unless the mitigations, warm weather and other factors serendipitously conspire to put a lid on this pandemic. Even under this optimistic scenario, the number of infections in the U.S will be about 12 million.

I'll keep following the numbers but indeed there are statistical indications that there is an end to the 'Covid-19 tunnel' in late spring.

======
There is great risk in making forecasts using only a few and fairly volatile data points. Every week adds precious new data that enable better future predictions. I will leave this post alone and will post updates separately. In this way, we can see how close we got in predicting 6 weeks into the future based on 3 weeks in the past.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

How Much Do We Pay for Roads and Other Utilities?

Robert Poole of the Reason Foundation presented a comparison below in which I added my data from Honolulu, Hawaii. Thanks to the 12 solar panels on the roof of my house, and my moderate annual mileage (about 11,000 miles at 20 mpg), my costs are similar or better than average US costs.

However, the data below do not include vehicle registration fees which are part of the road charges we pay. My vehicle's registration is just under $30 per month but most light duty trucks pay about $500 for registration on Oahu, which is over $40 per month. Even with registration included, the conclusion is the same. Roads are a vital infrastructure utility and we pay less for them than we pay for other infrastructure utilities.


=========== Poole's article:What Americans Pay in Highway User Taxes  ===========

HNTB Corporation last month put out a useful analysis that compares what Americans pay for roads and highways (via gasoline taxes) with what they pay for other basic infrastructure, such as electricity, water, cell phones, broadband, etc. I was not surprised to see that their results showed a far lower annual cost to use roadways (excluding tolled facilities) than for other user-charge-funded infrastructure. But I was surprised by how low the reported gas tax charge was.

In my book, Rethinking America’s Highways (University of Chicago Press, 2018), I presented a similar comparison, using data mostly from 2012-2013. My results were very similar to HNTB’s, except for the highway number. The comparative monthly figures are shown above.

My numbers make the same basic point—that people don’t realize how little they pay for roads compared with other basic infrastructure. But my fuel tax figure is about double that of HNTB. The answer appears to be that all HNTB’s figures are per household, except for fuel tax, which is per driver. By contrast, all of mine, including fuel tax, are calculated on a per-household basis.

I’m grateful to HNTB for making this kind of comparison, but we should not be presenting an unfairly low figure for what households pay for roads. The main point is to get people to understand that even $46 per household per month is far below what they pay for other basic infrastructure and is not sufficient to cover the capital and operating costs of our extensive roadway network.