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Update on Hawaii and the Canary Islands


As we come to the end of a very challenging 2020, this seems an appropriate time to provide an update on the TMT site conditions and issues.

Due to the pandemic, the TMT Workforce, Education, Outreach and Public Communications (WEPOC) team has been unable to travel, and several meetings we had planned became remote meetings. We have discovered that on-line meetings cannot completely replace day-to-day and face-to-face contacts. We very much look forward to a time when we can travel again to Hawaii and to the Canary Islands. In the meantime, our co-workers, friends, and supporters are in our thoughts and we send our best wishes for health and safety.


Hawaii has the lowest per capita cases of coronavirus among the U.S. states, achieved partly by a severe restriction on travel to the state, and between islands. However, currently as with all of the U.S., Hawaii’s COVID-19 cases are increasing. Hawaii Island has been comparatively hard hit; with most cases being linked to community spread. The economy, which is heavily reliant on tourism, has been devastated, and Hawaii has among the highest unemployment of any state in the country. Only since mid-October have tourists been welcomed back, although, still with restrictions. The economy is expected to pick up somewhat over the next year, though, not to return to normal for at least a couple of years.

Spain had one of the highest COVID-19 rates in all of Europe in the winter, and it improved after the government implemented lockdown measures. There is currently a resurgence in cases, and lockdown is once again being enforced. However, Canary Islands, after one of the earliest reported cases in Spain, has had a lower rate of the virus than most of Spain; with 5% of hospital beds occupied and a cumulative incidence of 76.07 cases diagnosed per 100,000 inhabitants in the last two weeks of October. As such, no mobility restrictions or curfews have been decreed in this region. Unemployment has increased in the islands by 47,800 people during the third quarter, which is 21.15% compared to the previous period and brings the number of unemployed to 273,700.  Currently, the Canary Islands have the highest unemployment rate in Spain.


Over the past decade TMT has funded and participated in numerous community activities, especially those focused on STEM education and building a high-tech workforce.  Our last trip to Hawaii, in early March, was to participate (for the 10th time) in Journey through the Universe, a week-long collaboration which had dozens of staff from the Maunakea Observatories teaching STEM lessons in K-12 classrooms on Hawaii Island. As the pandemic set in we switched our support to funding very needed programs, such as the food banks, on Hawaii Island and La Palma. In Hawaii, we also funded STEM distance learning innovations and provided vehicles to non-profit programs. We will not know the outcomes of our efforts for a while, but hope that in addition to helping students now, there will be useful lessons learned to help going forward.