Lt. Governor: Current facemask rules 'too difficult’ to enforce, suggests revisions

Lawmakers explore the idea of strengthening Hawaii's mask mandates ahead of the holidays

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - With the holidays approaching, Lt. Gov. Josh Green said the current mask mandate is not enough to control a potential winter surge.

Green said the only penalty that’s available to enforce is the violation of quarantine or pandemic rules, which is a misdemeanor.

“It’s very difficult because that sends people back to court, courts will back up, it’s too difficult to actually enforce,” said Green.

He adds that mask wearing rates have ranged between 70-80%, but if the state can’t get over 90% consistently, he said there will be a spread of COVID.

The lieutenant governor also said a mask mandate should require a small penalty where police can issue a ticket.

“The goal really needs to be to put a $100 fine or $75 fine on people who break the mask mandate who go to a club and they’re not wearing a mask, who are at the beach in a group and they’re not wearing a mask,” said Green.

Green suggests masks be used when social distancing is not possible, in a social setting and at work.

He said a mask would not be required if you’re exercising alone, if you can social distance or when you’re in the ocean.

Some residents support issuing a new mandate and its requirements.

“Groups, family gatherings, cops can’t be lenient with them, they just have to give them a ticket, once they know you’re around, it will work,” said Van Kamakaala of Kahana Valley.

“Fine these people if they’re not wearing a mask, you know they refuse to use it, they’re stubborn about it, fine them,” said Colleen Enjada of Hawaii Kai. “Give them a fine something they’ll remember, hey I need to wear my masks, I can’t afford these fines.”

However, others feel the existing mandate is already enough.

“I think the regular mask mandate is fine as long as they’re wearing them and keeping it covered, and the person next to you is wearing a mask then I think it’s fine,” said Joshua Kealanahele of Kalihi.

On Maui, authorities are enforcing the rules.

Police have issued 264 mask citations in about two weeks, between Oct. 30 and Nov. 12. Of those citations, 209 were issued to residents, and 55 went to visitors.

As the county steps up mask enforcement, officials also say that Governor Ige will soon issue an emergency proclamation revising the mask mandate, though the state hasn’t yet confirmed the intent to do so.

Green said the issuance of a new mask mandate can’t be done through an emergency proclamation; it must be done through legislation because of the way the statutes are written.

“We’re heading into the second half of November and then December, January where the surges will be largest, and I hate to wait until the session begins next year to get the session changed,” said Green. “We’ll make it through without that but it would make things more difficult, but a mask mandate would really help us.”

Green said the mask mandate would have exemptions for people with lung conditions like COPD or asthma and adds that face shields aren’t adequate without a face covering.

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