Hawaii to keep mask mandate in place as it evaluates new CDC guidance


HONOLULU (KHON2) — Gov. David Ige announced on Thursday that Hawaii will continue to keep its mask mandate despite new federal guidance, citing that it would be impossible to determine who has been fully vaccinated, which would be an “enforcement nightmare.”

On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidelines to ease mask-wearing for fully vaccinated people.

The new federal guidance allows fully vaccinated people to stop wearing masks outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings. However, masks would still be required in crowded indoor settings like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters.

The governor points out that more than half of Hawaii residents are not yet fully vaccinated, and that includes most children. So he’s not ready to drop the mask mandate.

“With the majority of the community not fully vaccinated and we’re not able to determine whether someone is vaccinated or not, we will continue to maintain the mask mandate here in the state of Hawaii,” said Ige.

He says dropping the mask mandate would be an enforcement nightmare. He adds that he wants the state to get closer to achieving herd immunity with vaccinations before making significant changes.

“It’s better that we continue to wear masks until we get to the point where 70- or 80% of our community is fully vaccinated, especially we want to get more of our children to be vaccinated,” said Ige.

The lieutenant governor says the state can’t impose rules that would require checking if people are vaccinated, so it has to loosen restrictions with a certain level of trust.

“If you’re not fully vaccinated, you have to be smart enough to make that decision to wear a mask and to keep yourself safe until the whole state has reached herd immunity. Remember we’re all in this together,” said Lt. Gov. Josh Green.

The mayors will have their say when they meet with the governor on Friday.

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi issued a statement saying, “These (CDC) recommendations will guide our continued discussions with the Governor regarding easing COVID-19 restrictions.”

Big Island Mayor Mitch Roth says he’s ready to drop the mask mandate outdoors but wants input from the other mayors about wearing masks indoors.

“I think that it’s great that we start loosening up our restrictions, but we also have to proceed a little bit cautiously and see what’s going on,” said Roth.

He adds that it’s important for all mayors to agree on one policy for the entire state.

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