Indoor Mask Mandate Ending
By Catherine Cluett Pactol
Hawaii becomes the last state in the U.S. to lift its indoor mask mandate on March 25. Gov. David Ige announced the statewide mask requirement for inside settings will end this month. It will be the first time masks won’t be required indoors since April 2020.
“Together, we have reduced COVID-19 in Hawaii to the point where most of us will be safe without masks indoors,” said Ige last week. “Right now, hospitalizations are trending down. Case counts are falling. We are better at treating people who are infected. Booster shots are saving lives. And the CDC has rated the state’s COVID-19 community level as ‘low.’ However, the state will be ready to reinstitute the mask policy if COVID case numbers surge.”
Though the statewide mask mandate is lifting, individual businesses may still continue to implement mask policies.
Individuals are encouraged to continue wearing masks if they are at high risk or feel safer doing so, according to officials.
“Masks are still an important tool in preventing transmission of COVID-19,” said State Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Char. “We strongly recommend people over age 65, people with compromised immune systems, people who aren’t vaccinated, and those who care for people at risk of severe illness still wear masks indoors. This is especially important in crowded settings.”
Dept. of Education schools continue to require masks be worn indoors at school, however. The DOE announced last week wearing masks outdoors is now optional for students, faculty and staff at all HIDOE schools and facilities. Indoor masking is still required until further notice.
“We continue to recommend masks be worn in classrooms, at least for the time being. We are no longer recommending quarantine for students who are exposed to COVID-19 at school. Masks provide a layer of protection as we amend the school quarantine guidance,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Kemble.
On Molokai, no new COVID cases were reported in the past week. Statewide, new cases averaged 142 per day over the last seven days, as of last Sunday, the Dept. of Health reported.
Masks continue to be recommended indoors at hospitals and health care facilities, shelters, correctional facilities and other group living settings.
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