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Hawaii is so accustomed to welcoming people from every corner of the world, that the Covid-19 crisis has impacted Hawaii in a very profound way. For this episode, we have Josh Green, a Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii. Bryan and the Lieutenant Governor talk through what you need to know if you’re planning to travel to Hawaii.
 

Lieutenant Governor Josh Green’s Official Photo

Official Bio from https://ltgov.hawaii.gov/

Josh Green is a local doctor, husband, and father of two who has spent his life caring for Hawaii families.

After completing his medical training, Josh joined the National Health Corps and started his life’s work as a family physician and ER doctor in rural hospitals and clinics on the Big Island.

Josh served in the Hawaii State House of Representatives from 2004 to 2008 and in the Hawaii State Senate from 2008 to 2018 where he chaired the Health Committee and Human Services Committee.

In 2005, Josh met his wife Jaime Ushiroda, a local girl from Kaneohe, and they were married in 2006.

Together they are the proud parents of 12-year-old daughter Maia and 8-year-old son Sam.

In 2009 he was named “Hawaii Physician of the Year”.

The hopes, challenges, and values of the families he cares for inspire Josh to do more to make life better for the people of Hawaii and he is honored to serve as their Lieutenant Governor.

 

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Lieutenant Governor Josh Green 0:00

When one group of people can move or one family has to be locked in their home or one individual is in the hospital alone, that kind of isolation has a profound impact on the human psyche. It has become an it really an existential crisis for us in Hawaii because we're so accustomed to welcoming people from every corner of the world and we love that to not be able to do that changes the way we exist.

Bryan Murphy 0:23

That's a clip from today's interview with Josh green lieutenant governor of Hawaii. And if you are planning on going to Hawaii anytime soon, you're gonna want to stay tuned and listen to my conversation with lieutenant governor, Josh green. So let's

Hawaii's Best 0:40

go. Welcome to Hawaii's Best travel podcast where we help you prepare for your next trip to Hawaii. Discover the experiences businesses and stories that make foi the Aloha state. And now your host, Brian Murphy.

Bryan Murphy 0:57

Hello, and welcome to Episode 45 of Hawaii's Best that is my little girl, Ellie. Ellie, say hi, Ellie, what do you love most about Hawaii?

Unknown Speaker 1:10

I really like the pineapple.

Bryan Murphy 1:14

You love the pineapples? That's our middle girl. le le Jo. Josie sorry. On today's episode we're talking about if you are planning a trip to Hawaii anytime soon, I would say between now the next bringing your swimsuits. Between now the next six to nine months, you're going to definitely listen to my conversation with lieutenant governor Josh green. And we talked about the current travel restrictions and all that stuff that you need to know that is up today. But before we even dive in today's conversation, I just want to say thank you so much for joining us today. If you're new here. Thank you so much for your time and if you've been around for a little while, go ahead and hit the subscribe button and drop a review below and eat the pineapples. They are so good. They are definitely sweeter and more juicy here in Hawaii. Right Ellie?

Unknown Speaker 2:15

Do you see it then apples the apples are

Bryan Murphy 2:19

very good. Lieutenant Governor Josh green is a local doctor husband and father of two who has spent his life caring for Hawaii's families. After completing his medical training and Josh join the National Health court and started his life's work as a family physician, an ER doctor in rural hospitals and clinics. on the Big Island. Josh served in the Hawaii State House of Representatives from 2004 to 2008. And Hawaii State Senate from 2008 to 2018, where he chaired the health committee and Health Services Committee in 2005. Josh met his wife Jamie, a local girl from Canada know he and they were married in 2006. In 2009, he was named Hawaii physician of the year, the hopes challenges and values of the families He cares for inspire Josh to do more to make life better for the people of Hawaii. And he is honored to serve as their lieutenant governor. So let's go ahead and let's talk story with lieutenant governor Josh green.

Lieutenant Governor, I just want to say thank you so much. First of all, honestly, for your leadership for you know, guiding not only Hawaii through this, but really the world because people love Hawaii, they want to get to Hawaii. But I just want to say I appreciate you and I just thank you so much for coming on Hawaii's Best today.

Lieutenant Governor Josh Green 3:55

Thank you. It's my pleasure. And it's work that my team and I were kind of made for I'm still working as an ER doc this weekend, in fact, but the health care part of COVID drives our policy decisions out of my office anyway. And we want people to come to Hawaii, we want them to travel safely. And we want them to have a great experience. But these are tough times for sure.

Bryan Murphy 4:15

Yeah, absolutely. And I would assume that to get the most up to date info people should go to Hawaii COVID-19 dot com. Is that correct?

Lieutenant Governor Josh Green 4:23

Yeah, why COVID-19 dot com is critical, because that's where all the relevant information is. They can follow our social media and get answers. Also, we post a lot of things. It's at Lt. Gov. Josh green. But that official website does share which partners we use what the updated rules are. They have my apologies, the rules that have changed. I would love to see more stability in the program. We're just wrestling with COVID. And so I really appreciate programs like yours and extra information for people so that they can stay up to date up to the minute appreciate that.

Bryan Murphy 4:58

It's It's incredible to think that we're In December now, and as we have this unique perspective, as we zoom out this past year, I know people have been glued to the news and up to date and all that. But maybe if we could just zoom out and just kind of a 30,000 foot view, if you will, of how COVID-19 has impacted Hawaii, how would you answer that today?

Lieutenant Governor Josh Green 5:22

Well, COVID has impacted everyone in some way or another. And in Hawaii, it has impacted us in a profound way, because we already start with some isolation from the rest of the world. And the isolation that the COVID pandemic has brought to the world, when one group of people can't move, or one family has to be locked in their home or one individual is in the hospital alone. That kind of isolation has a profound impact on the human psyche. It has become really an existential crisis for us in Hawaii, because we're so accustomed to welcoming people from every corner of the world. And we love that to not be able to do that changes the way we exist. We want to be careful about travel. Now, we want to make sure that there's not extra spread, but also changing how our day to day lives have gone has been a big change. So in March, when the crisis was beginning to roll through the world, the governor made the decision to basically close our borders. And we went into a essentially a quarantine state. That meant that 99.6% of the people couldn't come here only a very small number with exemptions, or for essential work or whatever could come. And that began to kind of loosen up as we got through the summer. We went through our own crisis here in June in July, when we opened up our internal economy. Then July 4 hit and the COVID virus spread like wildfire through our own state, our hospitals filled up with patients and we learned a lesson, which is you better darn well wear masks and socially distance and be careful. We came down off of that. And we realized we couldn't stay isolated any longer. And I began to conceive of the Safe travels program with a lot of other good partners. And that would open us up we hoped to open up on August 1, but by then COVID had been running wild on the mainland, and it became impossible to predict people coming. And so ultimately, October 15. And then we were finally able to open. So from a 30,000 foot view, it's been a roller coaster. And we're hoping to see essentially the light at the end of the tunnel now,

Bryan Murphy 7:25

now from you and just I mean, no one signed up for this, but you as a leader, you you have to go through it. What have you learned this past year, just maybe through your team, your staff? What have you learned as a result of this crisis?

Lieutenant Governor Josh Green 7:40

Well, I've learned people can survive extraordinary challenges well, so it's amazing to watch families deal with extended unemployment just because of a rule or a virus. That's an amazing thing. Normally, we have these crises in our lives because a business shuts down or someone gets very sick. This one was an invisible crisis, to the you know, to the naked eye. But I learned that people can survive as long as they have a little bit of support. My team always charges for challenges. When we see an emergency we like to go to it. That's natural for me as an ER doc and the team I put around the channels that so we are the right team to work on something like this. We're not perfect. But that has been something that we wear as a badge of honor. We were already focused on our other crisis in Hawaii, which is homelessness. And so we had kind of learned how to approach things. And then, interestingly, a year ago today, we were in Samoa as a team. We took 75 people over to Samoa to vaccinate their whole country from a measles outbreak. And so it seems like the stars aligned a little bit for us to be involved and try to help Hawaii through this this COVID crisis.

Bryan Murphy 8:50

Yeah, well said was it October 15, when Trans Pacific travel began to open up granted as having to our negative testing without having quarantine for 14 days. Within these last month and a half. How has that been for the one for the travel industry but also to for cases on Hawaii.

Lieutenant Governor Josh Green 9:11

You're right. That is when we began we began on October 15 72 hours before once departure, you get the test nucleic acid amplification test, that's the PCR test swab to your nose. And then you can travel and not have to quarantine it has exceeded our expectations. It's not without challenges, and there have been bumps along the road. But we have fewer cases now in Hawaii. on a day to day basis. The average is lower than we started back on October 15. We have half as many people in the hospital as we did on October 15, which is just amazing. Our cases have been steadily declining that way. We're the only state in the country in fact that has fewer people in the hospital getting care for COVID. every other state has seen such a huge surge in their cases that were mindful and extra careful. That's why you still see these rules and why the rules Though seem arbitrary at times, and maybe excessively tight, you know, having to have that test in hand, before you travel really trying to do is say, be safe, know that you're healthy before you travel. And you can't travel this week, maybe two or three weeks from now, come to us, but we want you to be healthy. We want the person next to you to be healthy at the beach or on Haleakala on Maui, or on Big Island at the volcano, we want you to be healthy. And we want you to not worry about that when you're in Hawaii. So that's what we've experienced. But from a safe travels program, it has really exceeded every expectation, we did see some pushback on policy, just because this virus, if I may, has a lot of people spooked, and it is scary. It's scary. Whether you live in Omaha, Nebraska, or Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, or LA, the virus doesn't care where you're from, it doesn't care how old you are. And some of our counties that have less health care, or have fewer resources, they have a lower tolerance for positive cases coming to the islands. But I'll tell you from a travel standpoint, it's not a travel problem. individuals that are coming to Hawaii have gotten a test, they're negative, they're extremely low risk that goes to the people sitting next to you on a plane to we then did a follow up survey. And we found that a super, super low number of people were positive after arrival was like point two 2%. So if you look at the big numbers, we see that it's safe.

Bryan Murphy 11:31

Yeah, that's super important. Currently, what are the travel restrictions? procedures? Were we currently?

Lieutenant Governor Josh Green 11:37

Sure. So right now, as of this minute, yeah, you have to get a test from a trusted partner. That's really important. So you go on to our website, Hawaii COVID-19 dot com, and look at that list carefully, because breaks my heart when someone goes and gets a really good test, but they got it from someone that we just haven't worked out the partnership with. Yeah, I've heard that case so many times. So you go to our website, you pick a partner that is on that list, you get the test within 72 hours of your departure, and then you are good to go. Of course, you have to be negative, okay. People say it's hard to get a test, I get it, I definitely get it is sometimes hard to get a test. But the point is, travel in the air of COVID is challenging. So you get that test, you have to have your result in the hand, and then Off you go for your trip. Now, you also have to be thoughtful about what happens on the backside, if you get sick. While you're here, we're going to provide care for you. But we have seen some of the mayors asked for additional testing at the airports. It's just a precaution. If a person test positive there, we'll do a double check to make sure that their test is not a false positive. But at the end of the day, I've done a lot of soul searching on this. And I think everyone would agree, if you're carrying COVID. Even if you're an asymptomatic positive, you don't want to be spreading it. And such a small number of travelers are positive, we understand that risk. And it's just the bargain that we make. It's kind of traveling with Aloha. As I've said on a few occasions, you travel here safely. And our commitment to you is to keep this climate and environment safe for you.

Bryan Murphy 13:12

That makes sense in your perspective. And I know it's kind of almost day to day, but we've learned more about this virus last year and as we're still battling it. But just from your perspective, what are you hoping? Or what are you looking forward to in the future, from your perspective,

Lieutenant Governor Josh Green 13:30

what I'm looking forward to is a rational process in the coming weeks where we are able to vaccinate our healthcare workers. And our basically our most high risk individuals are kupuna, elderly, who are in nursing homes, personal care, homes, and so on. Because they have the highest risk of dying if they can track the virus, and our health care workers need to be saved to not spread it. So that's the immediate future. That makes a lot of other things possible, because that brings down our concern and risk that we would ever have to shut down because of a lack of Health Care Services. Then about two months later, we expect to vaccinate a broad number of people across Hawaii, so that no matter what whatever the conditions are in the mainland or in Europe or in Asia, we know that we will not have a significant outbreak here no matter what happens with travel because we welcome travelers that's important to us the right number of travelers, yes. Enough safety. Yes. But we love having people here from all different cultures from all corners of the world. So when we vaccinate most of our people, then we won't have to worry that tourism is a challenge for our state. And that's important to me, that's kind of the light at the end of the tunnel. I intend to be vaccinating people personally as a physician because I see the value in number one, showing that it's safe. I mean, I'll take it myself Of course, and to knowing that our citizens are one by one getting protection against the virus. Got it?

Bryan Murphy 14:55

Yeah, I feel like you've kind of already answered this but someone is waiting Planning, especially right now thinking about holiday season and holiday season in Hawaii is amazing. And even as we get into January, February, March, if someone's planning a trip within these next four months or so, what advice would you give them as you're preparing to travel with Aloha, as he said,

Lieutenant Governor Josh Green 15:19

My advice to people would be, just prepare well for the trip, anticipate that you do need to get the test so that you can clear the quarantine considerations. Very important, I don't want you to travel here and then be trapped in a 14 day quarantine, that's not a vacation, right. And so prepare that way, make sure that after you get your test, you kind of lay low for a couple days, because you don't want to get very unlucky and catch the virus in between, and then come and have an extraordinary trip. I think that Hawaii because we've kept our numbers lower than most places is actually safer place to go. And that's a blessing. My mom is coming in February, I can't wait to see her she's gonna see the grandkids. She's 77 years old. So she's not without some risk. For her. We're hoping that she qualifies to get the vaccination before she travels. We might wait another week or two, just in case if that's you know, if that's what's meant to be. So if you're very fragile, or you've gone through health considerations, take that extra precaution if you can get the vaccination, it's good before long trips, otherwise, really do what's important. Get the test, make sure you know you're gonna wear a mask when you're traveling. And when you're here. That's key and you will have a great experience.

Bryan Murphy 16:29

Cool, what about you what has kept you driven focus determined a lot of adversity and happened this year, but what what keeps you kind of centered and grounded.

Lieutenant Governor Josh Green 16:41

For me, this is really an extension of what I always have done, which is provide health care. So lieutenant governor job is not really clearly defined in our state or in a lot of other places. So it was really a strange twist of fate that the biggest challenge that we had in our state was actually a healthcare challenge. So for me, it's an honor just to be able to use some of the skills that I've acquired over the years, I came to Hawaii, actually with the National Health Corps from the east coast. So I came to Hawaii for the purposes of treating people with illness. And when I became lieutenant governor, I always thought I'd focus on social issues and health issues. But then Who would have guessed that we'd have a global pandemic to deal with. So for me, that fuels me, I also see it as a significant challenge to overcome. And as an ER doctor, I see the fear in people's faces when they are faced with the unknown and uncertain challenges like an invisible virus. And I know that I can bring some calm and try to help that way. So it really is up my alley to work on this challenge. But we have so many good people that are doing it. Hi, Emma, and general hora, Department of Health has great personnel. The challenges are many, but for our team, we like to lead on these kind of things. So we're right in the thick of it. Now, as we continue to try to make the Safe travels program better. Yeah, it's always a challenge. But day and night, we're working on that. But that's for people to come and be a part of Hawaii still, then, of course, the vaccinations so that we don't see at any point, a large outbreak that takes a great toll on our, especially our kupuna. And finally, just think about what the sense of satisfaction is going to be for our state and places all around the world when we come through this challenge. And we as humanity fought something back, that really wasn't fighting between ourselves, I see that as a great potential unifying force. So I think that COVID while it's been devastating to many, and of course, it breaks our heart to consider the 1.5 million people that have died from COVID. I also see a way for the world to start uniting. And Hawaii has always been a place for people to gather a wahoo the gathering place. I think this is a way for Hawaii to leave its mark in a positive way. So I'm hopeful that it will continue to have the lowest case rate, the lowest fatality rate, and be a place that leads in vaccinations and safety. That's how I approach this. And I'm really going to be proud of our state if we keep up this hard work, and then bring back what's been an extraordinary relationship with the rest of the world. love that.

Bryan Murphy 19:19

I love to know what do you love most about Hawaii?

Lieutenant Governor Josh Green 19:22

Well, it's certainly my wife and children is what I love most about Hawaii. And they're an interesting mix of Hawaii. My wife is Hawaiian and Japanese. And so though I'm a Polish Jew, with some Russian background, I've been welcomed to Hawaii as a part of the fabric that is very multicultural. I'm Jewish and Christian. My wife is well she's Mormon. So you see these wild mixes and it's very wonderful to see because I don't see the same kind of racism. I see less classism here than in other places. And I think that's one of the really special things about it. State. That's what I love. So it hurts when we don't get to be with each other. And we don't get to see our friends, their friends I haven't seen in six months, I can't believe it. Yeah. And that's difficult. But I am seeing a lot of my family and a lot of card games and Mandalorian and ordering pizza. So, you know, we've, we've, we've bonded on a lot of these things. And I hope people are doing that in their families. I know it can be tough. Also, I still am away from home a little bit, because I still cover the hospital weekends. And you know, that's our balancing act. Yeah. But everyone's getting through this in their own way. And I can't wait to, you know, to have people throw the doors open and not worry about the virus or mask wearing or potentially getting the family sick.

Bryan Murphy 20:45

Maybe we can just go there and dream for a minute. Everyone who comes on the show. I love this to kind of float this question out there and see what they say what advice would you give someone coming to the islands like maybe there's like that one spot you got to go to there's that one, that one joint, you gotta you gotta go eat out was that for you?

Lieutenant Governor Josh Green 21:04

Boy, my my favorite joint to go to guy a lot of Hanks hotdogs, I have to say. And so that's I'm not sure a particular Hawaii delicacy. But just to be able to go out and be in a shave ice line and not worry about it is kind of a nice idea right now for me and the kids, even that most basic thing has drifted a little bit for us. So it's really the basics we don't, we don't like to go out fancy. Honestly, we just like to be out. People are getting out again, they're getting out a little bit, they're back at the beaches, and so on. But I just, I would just like to go get shave ice and not think about putting a mask on, or all of the different stuff that goes with going out these days.

Bryan Murphy 21:48

Right? totally makes sense. Just before we wrap anything else, you want to make sure we covered

Lieutenant Governor Josh Green 21:54

why I would say this, if people are going to make one commitment to help get through this, this last phase of COVID. It really is wearing a mask. I've spent time with Dr. falchi. And the head of the CDC and tons of doctors and nurses. And I know people are constantly talking about pre tests and post tests and this and that, if people can just wear a mask and wear it very religiously, the risk goes way down that we're going to see spread of COVID. And that will help us through to the end. It's something that you don't have to put in your body and you don't have to worry too much about it's not expensive. That keeps us safe. And so I hope everyone can do that. Because I I'd much prefer to see people with a mask on their face rather than seeing them in the hospital if I'm caring for them on call. So that's what I asked people to do, and have heart and hope that Hawaii is going to come back with the rest of the world. In fact, a white will come back much faster than the rest of the world. If I can be honest, because we've done a good job keeping COVID down and because we pretty much do care about our ohana. So I'm optimistic about the future. I think we've probably gone through the worst knock wood. But we're here at the end. So hang in there guys, wear your masks and get vaccinated if you believe in that.

Bryan Murphy 23:02

Appreciate you. Thank you so much, Lieutenant Governor for your time and coming on today.

Lieutenant Governor Josh Green 23:05

Thank you, Brian. I really appreciate your show.

Bryan Murphy 23:07

Absolutely. Well, I just want to say thank you so much again to Josh green for coming on today. And to find out more information again, go to Hawaii COVID nineteen.com for the most up to date info about travel to Hawaii and how COVID is impacting Hawaii. Also you can go ahead and follow the Lieutenant Governor on Instagram at Lt. Gov. Josh green. Well if you found value in today's episode, please go ahead and subscribe. Leave a comment and rating below. totally appreciate that. Until next time, be well. Aloha.

Hawaii's Best 23:45

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Bryan Murphy
Bryan Murphy

Aloha! I’m Bryan, and I head up the direction of Hawaii’s Best. Our passion is to help highlight the best of Hawaii while preparing and educating people from all over the world who are coming to Hawaii for a visit.