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Amid a boom in visitors, Waikiki also sees an increase in people not wearing masks

Updated: Mar. 23, 2021 at 11:00 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state says more than 28,000 people arrived in the islands this past Saturday, nearly matching the pre-pandemic average for March.

The spring break travelers spurred the highest one-day total since the pandemic began.

It’s especially noticeable in Waikiki, where the beaches are looking like they used to ― packed.

Officials are also hearing complaints about visitors not wearing masks.

“I’m a believer that if you’re outdoors, you can remove it,” said Indiana visitor Glenn Day.

Many visitors still don’t realize there is a mask mandate in Hawaii and several said wearing masks outdoors is not a requirement in their home states.

“We carry our masks around and if we walk into an establishment we’ll wear one, and if people look like they’re uncomfortable with us around, we’ll put one on. But otherwise, like I said where we come from, people are really not required to wear them,” Wisconsin visitor Larry Dopke said.

“I’m not wearing one right now, I’m outdoors,” said Todd Hasley, who is visiting from Idaho. “Boise City has an indoor mask mandate. The rest of the state has a mask recommendation.”

After a year with hardly any visitors, some lawmakers are also worried their return will spur a backlash.

“I think we’re all going to have to be prepared for a potential surge in tourism,” said state Rep. Scott Saiki. “I think we have to be prepared because the public may have a response to a sudden surge.”

Local economy experts worry a public backlash against visitors could harm recovery.

“Pushing back against tourism is the same thing as telling your neighbor they shouldn’t have a job,” said Carl Bonham, University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization Executive Director.

Tourism officials are trying to educate people that Hawaii requires masks anywhere in public, with some exceptions. They also point out that many Hawaii residents are also lax on the rules.

“The thing to remember is the vast majority of people coming are still being tested and the accuracy, the positive predicted value of the test is the same as it’s always been so it’s pretty good. It’s always worked well for us,” said Mark Mugiishi, HMSA President and CEO.

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