Mask mandates differ between the counties

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — A statewide mask mandate is in the works. Until then, each county has its own set of rules which has caused some confusion.

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Wearing a protective face covering, or mask, is a simple way to prevent the spread of COVID-19. You’re actually required to wear one in Hawaii once you leave your house. But the rules vary a little between counties.

Each county requires masks to be worn whenever a person cannot maintain a distance of six feet or more between themselves and when a person is with someone who doesn’t live in their household. That rule applies to all indoor and outdoor settings for anyone over the age of five.

While mask mandates in each county are similar, there are a couple of differences — most notably for Maui County.

People are required to wear face masks that fully cover their nose and mouth throughout the state, but Maui Police Lieutenant Audra Sellers said they have additional requirements.

“(The mask) needs to be tight along the sides, and it needs to be a two-ply mask,” she explained.

Neck gaiters and bandanas are unacceptable in Maui County. But, they are allowed in Honolulu, Kauai and Big Island.

Maui also has the strictest rules enforcing mask mandates for businesses.

Maui County Deputy Managing Director Josiah Nishita explained their rule.

“Businesses or designated operations shall refuse to allow entry to anyone not wearing face coverings unless he or she is covered by an exception. Businesses not enforcing this rule may be subject to enforcement including fines and mandatory closure.”

Honolulu and Big Island give businesses the option to refuse service to someone not wearing a mask.

Each county lists similar exceptions for not masking up.

“Face-masks are not required everywhere, such as while eating, drinking or smoking or when people engage in strenuous outdoor physical activity,” Nishita said.

People who can’t wear a mask for medical reasons are exempt statewide, but Kauai requires the exemption to be issued by a licensed doctor. The person must be able show evidence to law enforcement.

The differences in the rules from county to county have caused some confusion.

Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim said a plan to simplify things is in the works.

“You wish it could be simple in saying, ‘Wear face masks in public and just have usual, good sense of when you should wear it around people.’ But that doesn’t suffice in his world of legality.”

Mayor Kim said that the attorney general is working on a statewide mandate that will likely be announced this week.

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