HONOLULU (KHON2) — The 2021 holiday season in Hawaii began with loosened COVID-19 restrictions across the state, lending an air of hope and excitement for residents.

Then word spread of a new COVID-19 variant: omicron.

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When asked if he will consider tightening restrictions, Governor David Ige said “I’m encouraged because we see strong demands for vaccinations. We see a very strong desire for boosters for those who are fully vaccinated.”

Though the variant is a cause for concern, Ige adds “By talking with health experts from South Africa and, and in the US, the Omicron variant doesn’t appear to be more deadly or increase the severity of the disease. So we continue to be hopeful.”

That doesn’t mean you should let your guard down, he warns.

“Everybody knows what we need to do to keep our community safe,” Ige said. “It’s about people being smart about their holiday interactions. Avoid large gatherings, especially if it’s people that you don’t normally interact with. Wear your masks, especially indoors, because we do know that that makes a difference.”

As for dropping the indoor mask mandate, Ige says that won’t happen anytime soon.

“I’ve been asked that a lot of times,” he said.

“When talking with other governors, we think about actions that we’ve all taken and what things worked or what didn’t work,” he said. “The number one concern I hear from many of the governors is that they relaxed the mass mandate too quickly.”

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“The science is showing that it makes a huge difference,” Ige added. “I’m proud of the people of Hawaii. I still see a very good compliance with wearing masks, even outdoors, and it’s not required to be worn outdoors.”