HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - In a one-on-one interview Thursday, Gov. David Ige said Hawaii’s mask mandate likely won’t be changing anytime soon.
He urged the public to continue wearing masks for protection as the COVID cases fluctuate throughout the islands.
“We believe that the basic mask mandate is still appropriate, and we won’t be making changes, or making significant changes, at this time,” Ige said.
Ige said health officials examined CDC guidelines in light of the COVID vaccine rollout, and said it would be easier for those in Hawaii to follow the same mandate, regardless of vaccination status.
“We don’t want to get into the position of saying if you’re vaccinated you can do different things than those who are not vaccinated. It does create an enforcement nightmare. We wouldn’t be able to determine who is vaccinated and who’s not,” Ige said.
Most people at Ala Moana Regional Park wore masks Thursday evening, but there were some who were mask-less as they did their exercises solo — or were just heading into or out of the water.
“Well, I think it’s great that he’s not going to change it because how can you tell if somebody’s vaccinated or not?” said Terry Kakazu, shortly after reaching the showers after a paddleboard session. “For my own protection I’m gonna wear it anyway.”
“What are we gonna do, put a ‘V’ on everybody’s arm to let everybody know you’re the vaccinated one?” asked beachgoer Claire Nakamua-Rochon.
The governor continues to say that masks work.
“Hawaii continues to have amongst the lowest per capita infection rates and fatality rates in the country,” said Ige. “I do believe that our mask mandate is part of that success.”
Per capita, Hawaii has the third lowest seven-day case count among the states — behind California and Alabama. But of the ten states with the lowest counts, only Hawaii and California have mask mandates.
When you look at the percentage of a population vaccinated, mask mandates were more often lifted in states with lower vaccination rates.
Meanwhile, Honolulu Police are still enforcing those mandates on Oahu, but at lower numbers.
A spokeswoman said last week, HPD issued approximately 130 citations and arrests for mask violations. Six months ago, those numbers were in the thousands.
Wearing masks indoors is still a certainty, though confusion lingers over the rules for outdoor mask use.
“If you’re outdoors and can maintain physical distance, our current standards says that you don’t have to wear a mask outdoors,” Ige added.
“I think if you’re vaccinated and you’re outside and you’re social distancing, you shouldn’t have to wear a mask. All you have to be is respectful. If you come near anybody, just put your mask on,” said Hoi Young, who was taking a walk with his wife at Magic Island.
“You can hold it. But I don’t think you should have to wear a mask,” he added.
Ige’s decision not to immediately change the mask mandate comes as Hawaii reported 122 new COVID infections statewide on Thursday. The death toll stands at 483.