The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may have changed its mask guidance, but Hawaii’s governor has kept that state’s indoor mask requirement in place – at least for now. That means Hawaii will soon be the only state with an indoor mask requirement.
The reason the requirement is still needed, Governor David Ige explained, is that wearing a mask has been a primary factor contributing to the state’s low COVID-19 fatality rate. Indeed, Hawaii has the nation’s second-lowest death rate from COVID-19, Ige told KITV.
Reaction To CDC Guidance
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that given high levels of vaccination and population immunity achieved by vaccination and infections, the risk of medically significant disease, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19 is now greatly reduced for most people in the U.S.
With those circumstances in mind, the CDC announced last week that it is relaxing its mask recommendations in communities where hospitals don’t face high COVID-19 case counts. Since nearly 70 percent of the U.S. population lives in an area where COVID-19 is now considered to present either a low or medium risk, that means residents in those areas no longer need to wear a mask while indoors.
“With widespread population immunity, the overall risk of severe disease is now generally lower,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, according to CNBC. “This updated approach focuses on directing our prevention efforts toward protecting people of high risk for severe illness and preventing hospitals and health-care systems from being overwhelmed.”
In response, Governor Ige said Hawaii will keep its indoor mask requirement in place while officials continue to monitor conditions across the state, country, and world. He did, however, note that changes will be made as necessary.
“The CDC eliminated its mask recommendation once before but was forced to reinstate the indoor mask requirement when the Delta variant caused a spike in cases,” Ige said, according to Hawaii News Now. “Hawaii kept its indoor mask requirement in place during that time, protecting residents and preventing the rapid spread of the virus, resulting in the second lowest COVID-19 fatality rate in the country.”
Brooks Baehr, spokesman for Hawaii’s Health Department added during a press conference that several countries in Asia are experiencing a surge of COVID-19 cases, which is troubling.
“We’re right in between the U.S. mainland and some of those Asian cities, so we’ve got to keep a close eye on what happens not only here in the islands, but elsewhere as well,” Baehr said, according to KITV.
Changes Across The Islands
Hawaii as a state may still have an indoor mask requirement, but other COVID-19 related restrictions have either been lifted or soon will be.
Oahu’s officials have announced they will let its emergency order expire this Saturday, March 5, including its Safe Access Oahu program. Until then, however, residents and visitors alike must provide proof of full COVID-19 vaccination or proof of a negative test result to enter restaurants, bars, and gyms.
“This is a joyous moment right now,” Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi wrote on social media. “We were hoping this day would come, even though it’s not quite March 5th. Let’s get on with our lives.”
You can learn more about COVID-19 restrictions in Oahu here.
Kauai’s Emergency Rule 28 was lifted on Tuesday, March 1.
That rule limited social gathering size and required large event organizers to require attendees to either be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 or provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result. However, large event organizers are still encouraged to follow those practices.
“I’m grateful for our partners at the state and federal levels, our Kaua‘i District Health Office, our own county associates, our businesses, our visitor industry partners, and most of all – our Kaua‘i people,” Mayor Derek S. K. Kawakami said, according to Kauai Now. “I thank you all for your patience, your willingness to adapt at a moment’s notice, your innovative solutions, and your teamwork to overcome the most extraordinary and unprecedented challenges over the past two years.”
Kawakami went on to add that “while COVID-19 still exists, we have the knowledge and tools we need to keep ourselves, our families, and our community healthy and safe.”
You can learn more about COVID-19 restrictions in Kauai here.
Maui’s mayor, Mike Victorino, also announced last week that Maui would lift its remaining pandemic public health emergency rules on March 1.
“With COVID-19 new cases and hospitalizations continuing to trend downward dramatically, it’s time for our residents to return to the activities that they enjoy — camping with friends and family and attending birthday parties, baby luau, and other events at community centers,” Mayor Victorino said in a statement. “Now, we can reclaim our island lifestyle and put COVID-19 restrictions behind us.”
You can learn more about COVID-19 restrictions in Maui here.
Know Before You Go
All travelers to Hawaii still need to adhere to the state’s Safe Travels Program. That means travelers from the U.S. and its territories will undergo a temperature screening when they arrive in Hawaii. A five-day quarantine is also required unless travelers have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 or have proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of departure time — and upload those documents in the Safe Travels Hawaii program.
Travelers from the U.S. or its territories who do not upload those documents in Safe Travels must either quarantine for either five days or the entire length of their stay if it’s less than five days.
You can learn more about Hawaii’s Safe Travels program here.
If you’re planning a trip, be sure to read all of our Hawaii coverage, including