HONOLULU (KHON2) — Gov. David Ige on Tuesday announced that the statewide indoor mask mandate will end at 11:59 p.m. on March 25, letting it expire with his emergency proclamation.
While COVID-19 cases are down, the Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) recommends kupuna, those who are immunocompromised and at high risk of serious illness to continue wearing masks for their protection. The DOH also recommends indoor masks in crowded settings and public areas.
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Hawaii is the last state in the nation to have a mask mandate in place. Since April 2020, Hawaii has required face masks to be worn indoors and outdoors, with the latter requirement ending on May 25, 2021.
“Right now, hospitalizations are trending down, case counts are falling, and we are betting at treating people who are infected with the virus,” Ige said on Tuesday. “Booster shots are saving lives, and the CDC rates the state’s COVID-19 community level as low all across the state.”
The governor added that while this is promising, the state has seen progress wiped out by a delta or omicron variant. If coronavirus cases surge again, Ige said he plans to reinstitute the mask policy.
Also expiring on March 25 is the Safe Travels Hawaii program for domestic Trans-Pacific travelers, which the governor announced last week.
The mandatory quarantine for incoming passengers arriving from any domestic destination will end on March 26 at 12:01 a.m. They will not have to show proof of vaccination or a pre-travel test.
In addition, state and county workers will no longer need to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test to their employers after March 25. Visitors and those doing business with state properties will also no longer need to share their status or results to enter the facilities.
On Tuesday, the Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE) announced outdoor masking at its public schools and facilities will be optional for students, faculty and staff beginning March 9. However, indoor masking will continue to be required.
“We are dropping quarantine requirements for those exposed in the school setting, and this is one of the reasons why we’re still recommending masks be worn indoors in schools,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Kemble. “Those exposed to a known positive case at school will not have to quarantine as long as they’re not symptomatic or sick.”
Next week is spring break for public schools and others. Kemble wants to ensure students come back to a safe environment. Keeping the indoor mask mandate, she said, will ensure schools stay open.
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“Remember the basics: Get vaccinated (vaccines work), wash your hands often, avoid crowded places, especially if indoors, outdoor settings often provide much better ventilation, stay home if you’re sick or if you’re not feeling well, and get tested if you’re exposed to someone with COVID or if you’re not feeling well,” said DOH health director Dr. Elizabeth Char.