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Some celebrate end to transit mask mandate while others worry about risks of a maskless ride

For the first time in two years, travelers can go maskless when they fly. The same rule applies to other forms of public transportation.
Published: Apr. 19, 2022 at 4:16 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 19, 2022 at 5:26 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - For the first time in two years, travelers can go maskless when they fly. The same rule applies to other forms of public transportation ― like city buses and TheHandi-van.

The abrupt rule change, made Monday following a federal judge’s ruling, was met with a wide range of opinions at Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport. On Tuesday morning, the number of people wearing masks versus not wearing masks appeared to be split pretty evenly.

“I love it. I think it’s great,” said Oahu resident Sal Sorbera.

Mel Herolaga pointed to his mask and said, “No, I’ll keep this on.”

There was even some confusion.

“We’re in the airport. Don’t we have to wear a mask inside here,” asked San Jose residents Brian Gualberto. “Oh never mind then. I guess we don’t have to wear a mask.”

On Monday, a Florida judge struck down the federal mask mandate for airplanes and other modes of public transportation saying the CDC overstepped its authority and didn’t follow protocols.

The Department of Justice said it will appeal the ruling if the CDC says the order is still required for public health. There was no immediate word on how the CDC would proceed.

Meanwhile, Hawaii experts say they’re not too concerned about the change.

“These variants while they are very transmissible, they are resulting in a very low level of hospitalizations in the state and across the nation,” said Hilton Raethel, CEO of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii.

He said statewide, Hawaii’s hospitals have had an average of 25 COVID patients a day over the past 7 days.

“Of those 25 COVID patients just over one a day are in our ICU,” Raethel said.

He told HNN he believes we’re at a point where we have to learn to live with the virus.

“It’s going to be out there indefinitely,” Raethel said.

“In Hawaii, at least it looks like we’re at a stage where we have low levels of activity. It’s entering much more of an endemic stage than a pandemic stage.”

Back at the airport, Laryna Rodriguez said she’s keeping her mask on.

“There are regular germs out there. Not just COVID. I’m getting over a cold so if I cough I don’t want other people to feel uncomfortable either,” Rodriguez said.

Sobera added, “If you want to, wear it. If you don’t, don’t. That’s what this country’s about: Freedom.”

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