Under new rule, you’re now required to wear a face mask in most public settings

Updated: Apr. 20, 2020 at 3:42 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Everyone is now required to wear a face mask in most public settings, including on the city bus, when visiting businesses or ordering from the drive-thru.

The new rule is aimed at cutting down on the chance of spreading coronavirus in public spaces.

The owner of Lita’s Marinated Fish and Meat in Chinatown says she started noticing more customers covering up over the weekend.

“Since Saturday I noticed that everybody is wearing a mask," said Angelita Casinas.

Under the emergency order, masks include any type of face covering, including scarves or bandanas. Officials stressed that N95 and surgical masks should be reserved for health care workers.

Several businesses said problems with people disobeying the order have been rare.

“I had two customers kind of complain to me, like, ‘Oh why do we have to wear masks?’" said an employee at Honu Bakery in Kalihi.

But most residents seem to support the new rule. Some even questioned why lawmakers took so long to take action. “I think it’s absolutely necessary and it should have been done a long time ago," resident Neil Bowie said.

There are exemptions to the new mask rule: Masks are not required in banks or at ATMs, and for those with pre-existing health conditions that may prevent them from wearing a face covering, children under 5 years old, and for first responders if the mask impairs their safety as they carry out their official duties.

The CDC says children 2 and under should not wear face masks.

On Oahu, people caught violating the order can be charged with a misdemeanor. While punishment on the neighbor islands is unclear.

When asked about enforcement of the order, Caldwell said it will be “incumbent on the public to comply.” He added that businesses will also be tasked with enforcing the rule.

And officials say bus riders who don’t comply could be turned away starting Wednesday.

The city Department of Transportation Services has already made big changes to the way they operate city buses in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

There is a new red zone where no standing or sitting is allowed to give drivers extra space and allow for social distancing.

The department is also looking to install physical barriers to provide partial separation from the driver compartment to the rest of the bus.

The changes come as ridership on The Bus has been down considerably from around 200,000 riders a day to roughly 60,000 per day.

DTS says despite this, they have had to add routes during peak travel times provide better service and allow for proper social distancing.

Meanwhile, Gov. David Ige also issued an emergency supplemental proclamation on Friday that mandates that everyone wear a face mask or covering while in essential businesses — or while waiting to get inside. It’s not clear how — or when — it would be enforced.

The face mask requirement applies to both employees and customers in essential businesses.

This story will be updated.

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