Honolulu doubles down on face-covering rules

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Many locations already require a face covering before entering, but Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said even employees who do not interact with the public will now have to wear a mask or a face shield.

In some instances, the rule extends to the outdoors.

Caldwell’s mandate to wear a face-covering in most public places is a reinforcement for some retailers. Retail Merchants of Hawaii President Tina Yamaki said it is up to business owners to enforce the rules within their store.

[RELATED: Face masks now mandatory on Oahu]

Yamaki said, “What a lot of the customers do they come in with the mask–when they are shopping–they kind of take it off, or put it under their chin, or off from one ear. Then right before they are going to check out, they put the mask back on again.”

The face-covering mandate means that there are now penalties for those who refuse to comply. People who refuse to follow the county’s emergency orders may face up to a year in prison, or up to a $5,000 citation, or both.

For Honolulu resident Lorrie Gerschoffer, the mandate does not make much of a difference. She said she wears a mask whenever she is out.

“I think it is something that absolutely should be done. My family and I have been doing it basically the last couple of months any anytime we go out,” said Gerschoffer.

Hawaii State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park said that wearing a mask among family members could feel unusual, but it is needed. She said the latest spikes in COVID-19 cases come from gatherings with family and friends.

“Even friends we have not seen in a while, you need to treat them as if they are strangers in a way in that we have to wear our mask around each other,” said Dr. Park.

The new order also calls on people to wear a face-covering outdoors if social distancing is not possible.

Some agree with the recommendations such as Aiea resident Jenny Boyette. But she said a mandate is not necessary and it could feel like government overstepping.

Boyette said, “I think the mandate is a bit of overreach. I think the individual should be able to decide, you know, the best course of action for themselves.”

There are some exceptions to the rule. Children under 5 years old do not have to wear a mask and neither do people with certain medical conditions. Caldwell also said banks and other financial institutions do not need to require a face-covering.

Yamaki calls on the community to do its part and help shops and its employees stay healthy.

Yamaki said, “We can’t handhold all of our customers as they go around shopping, making sure that they have their masks on.”

The state’s epidemiologist said wearing a face-covering and maintaining social distance are among the best ways to keep the coronavirus curve of infection low.

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