HONOLULU (KHON2) — Gov. David Ige said in an exclusive conversation with KHON2 that he was caught off guard by the Center For Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) announcement on Thursday, May 13, like all governors across the country.

Gov. Ige says weekly calls with the White House gave no indication of a shift in policy.

“It definitely came without notice” said Gov. Ige.  “And you know, we’re on a weekly call with the White House, and there was no indication that that was in the works. And clearly, we were concerned about what the impact of that announcement would have on vaccination rates and people getting vaccinated.”

Gov. Ige says his greatest concern remains not being able to know who is vaccinated and who is not. He says the numbers do not show support for lifting the mandate yet, though he does recognize it could create a friction point for visitors to the islands.

He is hopeful to lift the mandate by the middle of June.

“We are emphasizing at the airports, as people come in, you know, there’s a lot of signage announcements being made that Hawaii does have a mass mandate and that people need to wear masks,” Gov. Ige said.

He says it is going to take all industries working as one to maintain cohesive messaging.

“We’re encouraging all partners to remind all visitors that we ask them to be respectful of our community and what we’re trying to achieve here, which is really a healthy and safe place,” Gov. Ige said.

Despite the CDC guidelines saying masks were no longer necessary in most settings, Gov. Ige still says he is following the science.

“We decided to keep our mask mandate in place at that time because the majority of our community was not fully vaccinated. And we are making progress every day,” Gov. Ige said.

KHON2 also asked the governor if there is an argument to reward those who are vaccinated, rather than cater to those who are not.

“We are looking at that and we’re having a lot of discussions with the business community about how they can help us get more people vaccinated or incentives that they may be able to offer vaccinated individuals,” Gov. Ige said.

On the question about allowing trans-pacific travel for vaccinated people without the need to be tested, the governor says he is still targeting the 4th of July.

“Now across the country, we’re getting to 40-50%, fully vaccinated. And we do know the CDC guidance that there’s little risk. We know that we have to get there, we have to be able to allow vaccinated travelers to come here transpacific because that will help us get more people back to work,” Gov. Ige said.