Governor extends emergency COVID rules, including mask mandate and traveler restrictions

Gov. David Ige on Friday extended his COVID emergency proclamation, including the statewide mask mandate and Safe Travels program for trans-Pacific passengers.
Published: Oct. 1, 2021 at 1:21 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 1, 2021 at 5:35 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Gov. David Ige on Friday extended his COVID emergency proclamation, including the statewide mask mandate and Safe Travels program for trans-Pacific passengers, saying the Delta variant crisis has abated but is not yet over.

The proclamation will be in effect for at least 60 more days ― and could stick around longer.

Ige is also not budging on his stance for sporting events.

This week, state House Speaker Scott Saiki asked Ige to allow a limited number of vaccinated fans into the stands when the UH football team plays its homecoming game. Ige, however, said that large gatherings are still a problem and urged people to watch the game at home or in bars.

Gatherings in Oahu are capped at 25 outdoors or 10 indoors.

“We are concerned that events that attract large gatherings or 1,000 people, even if they are vaccinated, we are aware that vaccinated people can be infected, they can be asymptomatic,” he said.

Saiki said the governor’s ban on spectators could do more harm than good. “You are putting the athletic program at stake,” he said. “You’re also perpetuating the perception that our state is closed.”

Before the Delta surge drove up infections, hospitalizations and deaths in the islands, Ige had said that all COVID restrictions would drop when Hawaii reaches a vaccination rate of 70%.

As of Friday, 68% of the state’s population was fully vaccinated.

“With the Delta variant, everything changed,” the governor said at a news conference on Friday afternoon, noting that the seven-day average of cases remains above 300.

“COVID continues to cause high rates of infection throughout our state. We continue to monitor the healthcare situation in our islands but we feel it’s important to extend the emergency proclamation.”

The governor announced Friday that he will extend his COVID emergency proclamation, including the statewide mask mandate and Safe Travels program for trans-Paci

The extension comes despite a sharp decline in COVID cases and hospitalizations.

Ige did not say whether he would extend the proclamation again, and added he doesn’t have a framework for deciding when the emergency rules would go away altogether. “I am aware that many states have dropped all restrictions and we continue to see high case counts,” he said.

The governor is keeping COVID rules in place in the wake of the deadliest month of the pandemic in Hawaii. In September, the state reported 193 COVID-related deaths ― up from 52 in August.

The new proclamation is almost identical to the previous one, but does say employers are not required to pay for employee COVID testing under vaccine-or-test policies. It also:

  • Requires masks be worn indoors in public places and businesses;
  • Keeps the Safe Travels program in place, mandating that travelers who don’t present proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test must quarantine for 10 days.

The governor, however, said visitors should continue to stay away from Hawaii.

He said he is working with the hospitality industry when the time comes to welcome people back once when numbers go down.

“The industry did let me know that it does take time to ramp up. They would like at least two weeks notice ahead of any significant change,” he said.

“I am committed to working with them and actively promoting just as we did in August.”

In late August, as COVID cases surged, the governor urged visitors to stay away until infections declined. In the weeks that followed, arrivals to the islands plummeted.

State Health Director Dr. Libby Char noted that while Hawaii’s vaccination rate is high, there are still about 248,000 people in Hawaii are unvaccinated.

Of those, roughly half are eligible for the shot. The rest are children under 12.

This story will be updated.

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