COVID-19 Rules Scale Back Statewide
Health restrictions are starting to drop statewide as COVID-19 cases continue to decline.
The state’s quarantine and Safe Travels Hawaiʻi program instated to stem the spread of COVID-19 will end after March 25, however, the indoor mask mandate continues to remain in place, Gov. David Ige announced during a press conference with all county mayors Tuesday afternoon.
Passengers will no longer have to show proof of vaccination or travel plans after the program ends. All pre- and post-arrival screenings for domestic travelers will also cease. However, international passengers will continue to follow requirements put in place by the federal government.
Additional mandates to end after March 25 include county and state employees no longer having to provide vaccination status or a negative test to an employer, visitors to state properties will also no longer have to abide by that requirement.
“We started the Safe Travels program to protect the health, lives, and livelihoods of the people of Hawaiʻi. The program put in place safety protocols that included a multi-layered screening and testing approach that kept our communities safe during the COVID-19 surges that endangered the most vulnerable of our citizens,” Ige said. “Right now, we are seeing lower case counts, and hospitalizations are coming down.”
Ige’s announcement comes after Hawaiʻi County Mayor Mitch Roth declared, on Monday, Feb. 28, an end to all county emergency rules to COVID-19. Roth said county officials will continue to recommend vaccine and booster shots.
“We are excited to be moving collectively, as an island and a state, toward a new chapter for Hawaiʻi,” Roth stated during the press conference. “Our community has worked extremely hard over the past two years to keep each other safe, and it is because of them we are able to begin shifting from response to recovery. Although COVID still remains a threat, we are confident in the will of our residents to continue doing what they know is right for all of us.”
Ige said people don’t need an emergency proclamation to take precautions. Those with pre-existing conditions should continue to follow all health guidelines related to the virus.
“We aren’t out of the woods…we know variants can spread,” he said. “We will continue to monitor the situation.”
At this point, Ige said there are no specific thresholds on what would cause the state to revert back to restrictions.
Ige issued the first statewide COVID-19 emergency rule on March 4, 2020, after the virus was declared a pandemic. Those emergency rules have continued for the past two years. The Safe Travels program was instated in October of 2020. Since the program’s implementation, the state has screened. 11.3 million travelers.
“We’ve been working toward this day to end Safe Travels,” Ige said. “I do appreciate the partnership in keeping the community healthy and safe.”
Ige said the indoor mask mandate remains in place, however, he will continue to await recommendations from the Center of Disease Control and Prevention and monitor COVID cases.
When the scheduled emergency proclamation comes closer to March 25, the governor said they will make an announcement.
“We will be moving on to a period of personal responsibility,” he added.
While the rest of the nation has dropped mask mandates, Ige said Hawaiʻi’s situation is more complex than in other areas.
Ige said Hawaii is the only state to run hospitals, jails and the Department of Education. With that in mind, he added, they are continuing to work with those entities in regards to the indoor mask mandate.
Ige said they want to make sure schools can continue in-person learning.
“We are looking at the overall community and we’ll address the mask requirements moving forward,” said. “We do know the mask mandate works.”
Ige didnʻt specifically address why the mask mandate couldn’t be lifted for the general public. He said businesses in the past asked him to implement the directive as it made it easier for them to enforce.
Ige thanked the residents of Hawaiʻi for their efforts and sacrifice during the pandemic.
“We are making significant progress,” he said. “We aren’t done with COVID-19 but we need to transition to the new normal.”