Hawai‘i Drops Outside COVID-19 Mask Requirements
You’ll still need to pack your mask when you head indoors. But other restrictions may soon be relaxed on all islands.
The masks are coming off. Tuesday, May 25, Gov. David Ige announced that wearing masks will no longer be mandatory when you are outside, regardless of vaccination status, effective immediately. Ige, the county mayors and state Department of Health director Dr. Libby Char all cited the dropping number of COVID-19 cases and increasing number of vaccinated people. However, masks will still be required indoors and the state encourages people to keep masks on outside when they’re in large groups. The emergency proclamation still requires groups outside to be 10 people or fewer.
The announcement comes 12 days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its guidelines that stipulated that only vaccinated people could remove their masks outdoors. However, Char says, “The data shows us pretty clearly now that outdoor activities are quite safe. The transmission rates are very very low, I believe it is less than 1% if we’re outdoors.” She added that a requirement only for those who have been vaccinated “would be really, really tough to enforce,” so instead, “it comes back to personal responsibility. So if you’re going to go into an area where you know everyone there and you pretty sure, that’s your friends and family, they’ve been vaccinated, that’s a little different than when you’re around a lot of strangers in a very crowded area. I would definitely wear my mask.”
Ocean sports can also resume on June 1, with the state once again accepting permits for surfing, paddling and other competitions. If the COVID case counts hold steady, Ige says changes to the safe travels guidelines may be coming in June.
The county mayors are also in process of loosening some restrictions. Kauaʻi requested to add two more levels to its COVID-19 structure: A Tier 5 for when 60% of residents are vaccinated, the daily average falls below three cases and percent positivity is below 1%; Tier 6 is when 70% are fully vaccinated, all restrictions will be withdrawn. Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi is also requesting to shift the county’s system to move into Tier 4 when 50% of Honolulu’s population is vaccinated. Under that, group limitations on Oʻahu will be expanded from 10 to 25 people and night clubs can reopen with some restrictions.
As of Tuesday, Lt. Gov. Josh Green says that 57% of the population has received at least one dose, with just under 50% completely vaccinated. The daily statewide COVID case count was 23, compared to 98 cases on April 1, 2021.