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Mask on or off? For guidance, we asked Hawaii epidemiologists what they do.

Published: May. 14, 2021 at 5:26 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - With confusing messages out there about when it’s safe to go without masks, the people who know the science best are weighing in.

Local epidemiologists say when it comes to masks, the state should stay the course.

UH emeritus Professor and epidemiologist DeWolfe Miller has been navigating the pandemic by tracking disease trends. He agrees with the governor that it’s too early to steer away from Hawaii’s mask mandate ― even though the CDC relaxed its guidelines for vaccinated people.

“I fully support the governor’s decision,” he said.

He says more people need to be vaccinated first. “Forget this thing about herd immunity, it’s for cows. We need to get everybody vaccinated,” Miller added.

The state’s mask mandate allows people to take off their masks outdoors when socially distanced. At indoor businesses and other venues, masks are required.

UH epidemiologist Thomas Lee also agrees with the mask mandate for now.

“I can understand being a little bit more cautious. What the science is showing is that we are protected if we are fully vaccinated,” said Lee.

He wears a mask in crowded places like shopping centers, but he sees a gradual return of personal greetings among vaccinated people.

“COVID is really airborne transmission. I think slowly as people get comfortable takING off their mask, go from the first bump, kind of mirroring that vaccination status to more handshaking,” said Thomas.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Kemble says she’s more relaxed around those who’ve gotten the COVID-19 shot, but she has young children who aren’t vaccinated.

“If I know that I’m fully vaccinated and I’m meeting up with family or friends that are fully vaccinated, I will have a small gathering and we can take our masks off,” Kemble said.

“I’m getting together with friends with kids, that’s a different story. The kids keep the masks on.”

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