Green calls for clear statewide mask mandate as state prepares to welcome visitors back

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Updated: Oct. 9, 2020 at 10:14 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - While masks have been proven to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, rules on when they should be worn are different depending which island you’re on.

With the relaunch of tourism one week away, Lt. Gov. Josh Green is proposing a statewide mask mandate that makes the rules consistent across the board.

In addition, he wants the penalty for being caught without a mask to be reduced from a misdemeanor crime to a simple citation that carries a fine.

On Thursday, 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, 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,” he said, during an interview with Hawaii News Now.

According to surveys conducted by the state Department of Health, the number of people masking up fluctuates statewide.

On Oahu, 85% of people are reportedly following current guidelines.

That number drops to 77% on Maui. The Big Island stands at 69%. And on Kauai, where there is currently just one active case of the virus, 50% of people were seen wearing masks.

“If you can get to 90%, that’s what many societies around the world have done. When they get to 90% they don’t have to shut down anything,” said Green.

“They don’t have to shut down travel. They don’t have to shut down business.”

Meanwhile, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell says he’s made it clear to the visitor industry: It’s up to them to make sure people know the rules and the consequences if they’re caught breaking them.

“We’re not going to give visitors a pass,” said Caldwell. “Your experience here on Oahu is going to be a little different than it was pre-pandemic.”

Green says people are going to need to be vigilant until there’s a vaccine, and he added it’s going to take a combination of pre-travel testing, mask wearing and social distancing to keeping COVID-19 cases at a manageable level as the state reopens.

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