Big Island Coronavirus Updates

Masks to Remain Mandatory in Hawai´i Indefinitely

By Max Dible
May 13, 2021, 4:40 PM HST
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Hawai´i’s coronavirus restrictions aren’t going anywhere just yet.

Governor David Ige called a press conference Thursday after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its COVID-19 guidelines, rolling back suggested restrictions on fully-vaccinated individuals in the United States.

“My mask mandate continues to be enforced,” Ige said. “We continue to evaluate the CDC guidance and will be making adjustments as appropriate.”

“The best case scenario is everyone wearing a mask.”

Current statewide rules mandate everyone wear face coverings and socially distance while indoors in public settings. Masks can be discarded when outside, assuming six feet of physical distancing can be achieved. If it can’t, masks continue to be a requirement under those circumstances.

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The CDC dramatically shifted its guidelines on what behaviors are safe for fully-vaccinated individuals in an announcement made Thursday, May 13.

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The organization’s new guidelines declared that US residents who have completed their vaccination schedules can congregate safely without social distancing or wearing protective face coverings. The guidelines apply to get-togethers both indoors and out, and have no upward gathering size limit.

Vaccinated or not, people must still wear masks when using public transportation of any kind or flying on planes, when visiting a nursing home, hospital or any other medical setting for any purpose, and when in congregate settings like jails or homeless shelters.

Ige has traditionally lined his policies up behind CDC guidelines but is breaking from that pattern now. The reasons he gave are that only about 40% of Hawai´i is fully vaccinated and that it is impossible for law enforcement to determine who is vaccinated and who is not on a case-to-case basis. Some in the state have bucked COVID-19 restrictions of any kind, and the administration fears many who are unvaccinated would take advantage of restriction rollbacks for those who are.

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Big Island Mayor Mitch Roth said he supports reducing COVID-19 restrictions but will continue in-step with the governor’s mandates.

“As vaccines have become available to the majority of our population here in Hawaiʻi County, we feel that it is time to begin relaxing many of the restrictions currently in place. That said, we must do so safely without jeopardizing our community’s health and safety,” Roth said. “We must also do so together, as … four counties with one clear vision. Therefore, our county will adhere to Governor Ige and the state’s directives while continuing to have regular conversations regarding proposed changes to our emergency rules.”

As for when Hawai´i will adjust its COVID-19 policies, the governor remained non-committal. Herd immunity will be reached when approximately 70-80% of the state’s populations has been inoculated or infected, though Ige would not put a number or a clock on changing the rules.

“We are working with the mayors and the Department of Health … to look at how we can incorporate vaccination rates into the tier system that we have identified,” the governor said. “We’ll be setting targets appropriately for the different levels within the tier system. We started that work last week. We will be making an announcement once we make a decision.”

Ige added that Hawai´i will keep its travel policies of a mandatory quarantine period for those unvaccinated and unable to provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test result. This will continue for as long as the state believes unchecked travel poses a significant public health risk.

Max Dible
Max Dible is the News Director for both Big Island Now and Kauai Now. He also serves as News Director for Pacific Media Group's Hawai‘i Island family of radio stations.
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