(BIVN) – Hawaiʻi has set the date for when it will end its indoor mask requirement.
Governor David Ige announced today that the mask mandate will end when the current emergency proclamation related to COVID-19 expires at 11:59 p.m., March 25.
“Together, we have reduced COVID-19 in Hawai‘i to the point where most of us will be safe without masks indoors,” said Governor Ige, who livestreamed a news conference over Facebook on Tuesday. “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.”
“We have been tracking the data and studying trends for weeks and support this move,” said State Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Char, FACEP. “Masks are still an important tool in preventing transmission of COVID-19. 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.”
“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.
According to the State, masks are still recommended for the following indoor settings:
- Hospitals and health care facilities
- Long term care facilities
- Correctional facilities
- Other congregate living settings
Following the announcement, many schools said they would be following updated Hawaiʻi State Department of Education safety protocols, making outdoor masking at public school campuses optional for students, faculty and staff, effective March 9. Indoor masking will continue to be required, schools said.
“It’s encouraging to see our indicators trending in the right direction to allow us to make this change,” said Interim Superintendent Keith Hayashi. “We’re seeing COVID case counts at our public schools continue to decline for the seventh-straight week and weekly rates are down 98 percent from January’s omicron surge peak.”
“I want to thank our students, staff and families for being diligent with mask-wearing throughout this pandemic. That diligence helped get us to this point where we can start to ease restrictions in a safe manner,” Hayashi added. “While outdoor masking will be optional, indoor masking will continue to be required.”
“Masks should be considered by anyone who is indoors with people whose vaccination status is unknown,” said health director Char. She said simple prevention practices include masking where vaccination status is unknown, and staying up to date on vaccinations and booster shots. You should also get tested if you feel sick, are a close contact, before and after travel or getting together with others. Char reminded residents to stay home if sick, and wash hands frequently.