If infections stay low, Hawaii could drop mask mandate early in 2022, Green predicts

Published: Nov. 5, 2021 at 3:44 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 5, 2021 at 5:49 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Lt. Gov. Josh Green is making a big prediction: He says the state will likely drop rules requiring people to wear masks indoors early in the new year.

As of Friday, 71.6% of Hawaii residents were fully vaccinated while the state’s infection infection rate stood at 1.7%.

Those positive figures have some critics asking why restrictions aren’t being dropped sooner.

But nearly two years into the pandemic, masks continue to be part of everyday life in Hawaii.

“You go and get the vaccination. And some of us have gotten the booster. And you still have to wear the mask,” said Justina Humphrey. “What are we waiting for?”

Ashley Hess works in the hospitality industry on the mainland.

“I work at Hotel Park City and we do not have a mask mandate there,” she said. “It’s honor code. So we ask people to wear their mask if they’re not vaccinated.”

Added Keanu Scalise: “Hawaii is a little strict. Especially since you guys are over 70% vaccinated.”

Green said vaccinations have played a critical role in knocking back the Delta variant.

“We have exceeded standards and expectations,” he said.

The number of active infections is down 86% since the peak of the last surge two months ago. Statewide, there are now just under 1,600 active COVID cases.

“My suspicion is the governor and some of the mayors probably are a little concerned about what could happen over Thanksgiving and Christmas when people gather,” Green said. “I suspect there will be significant pressure on the governor to get rid of most of the restrictions right after the New Year.”

Epidemiologist DeWolfe Miller says it’s wise not to rush. He believes it would be premature to get rid of the mask mandate completely.

But Miller added, “We could start taking off our masks in a lot of situations if everyone is safely vaccinated.”

Meanwhile, other changes are on the horizon.

“You got international travel starting. We’re allowing larger gatherings to occur. Restaurants are gearing up again. So let’s get through that phase,” Green said.

But some say at this point in the pandemic everyone should not have to play by the same rules.

“We still have those people out there that don’t want to get vaccinated. That don’t believe in the vaccine. And they have their opinion. They should be wearing masks where the rest of us should not have to be,” said Cheryl Kealaiki.

This week, children ages 5 to 11 became eligible to start receiving COVID vaccinations. In Hawaii, it’s estimated about half will get the shot.

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