HONOLULU (KHON2) – During the winter months respiratory diseases seem to increase across the country and here in Hawaii. 

Large city health departments across the United States are asking people to be mindful by washing their hands, staying home if sick, and if needed to wear a mask once again.

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In Hawaii there is no longer a mask mandate however health officials still encourage those who have a weakened immune system to keep masks on hand. 

Brooks Baehr with the Hawaii State Health Department said this is the time the state typically sees an increase in COVID-19 cases. 

“We have seen COVID-19 case counts rise each of the past two holiday seasons,” said Baehr. “We are concerned holiday gatherings may again result in increased cases of COVID and other respiratory diseases.”

Wearing a well fitted masks can protect yourself from transmitting COVID and other respiratory diseases. 

“Department of Health encourages people to consider wearing masks in large gatherings, when indoors with people from outside their household, and especially around kupuna and people with compromised immune systems,” said Baehr.

Getting your flu shot and bivalent COVID booster is one way you can protect yourself from getting severely sick during the winter months along with wearing a mask. 

“To date, only about 16% of the state’s population and 45% of people in Hawaii age 65 and older have received their bivalent booster,” said Baehr. “It is especially important for vulnerable populations, including kupuna and people with compromised immune systems, to get their bivalent boosters.”

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Bivalent boosters are free and readily available at pharmacies and health care facilities around the state.