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Mixed messaging about masks puts Hawaii businesses at center of controversy

Updated: May. 14, 2021 at 10:25 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii retailers are bracing for more confrontations over face masks following mixed messages from the federal and state governments.

While President Biden and the CDC told the nation this week that vaccinated people can go without masks, with some exceptions, Hawaii still requires them most places for everyone.

Store owners say they’re left in the middle of the controversy.

“Yesterday my phone was ringing off the hook,” said Tina Yamaki, the president of Retail Merchants of Hawaii. She says people often view what the CDC says as law of the land.

“And that’s not necessarily true. It’s just guidelines and suggestions,” she said. “Our advice to them was you have to go with what the state law says. And it says you have to do the mask mandate.”

[Read more: Governor keeps mask mandate in place despite new CDC guidance for vaccinated people]

Most people HNN talked to, though, didn’t seem to mind.

“I think it’s important to be a good guest. And just respect the rules of where you’re visiting,” said Kathryn Fekete.

At Moke’s Bread and Breakfast in Kailua on Friday morning, there was a line out the door.

Owner Keola Warren said confusion over COVID rules is nothing new, and he added that discrepancies can put workers in a tough spot.

“It’s just a big dialogue. You got to have that conversation,” he said.

“And I think that’s where businesses are going to have to be even more willing to put it out there that these are still the rules. What we have to do here locally.”

At the same time, businesses are still grappling with other COVID restrictions.

“We are still at half capacity,” Warren said. “It’s going to make the wait times a little bit longer.”

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