LIHU‘E — Despite federal recommendations to drop the mask for fully vaccinated people, Gov. David Ige announced Thursday Hawai‘i will continue its state-wide mask-wearing laws.
Yesterday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised that it’s OK to stop wearing masks outdoors in crows and in most indoor settings.
“We are unable to determine who is vaccinated and who is not and therefore as a guidance, the best mitigation measure is for everyone to wear a mask,” Ige said during a Thursday press conference.
Only about 40% of Hawai‘i residents are fully vaccinated, Ige reported Thursday, which also marked the first day those between 12 and 15 could receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19, which could slowly inch the state closer to a 75% herd immunity goal.
Ige said that CDC guidance was taken into account in this decision, but it really came down to the lack of a majority of vaccinated people and the inability to determine the authenticity of who is vaccinated or not.
“Our ability to enforce mandates and requirements are just an important part of how we decide to make adjustments and clearly at this point in time with the majority of our community not fully vaccinated, and we’re not able to determine whether someone is vaccinated or not, we will continue to maintain the mask mandate here in the state of Hawai‘i,” Ige said.
The state’s mask mandate says that masks aren’t needed outdoors so long as there is physical distance.
Back in October on Kaua‘i, an emergency rule under Mayor Derek Kawakami’s authority requires all persons five years of age or older to wear a face-covering over their nose and mouth, whether indoors or outdoors, while in close contact with those outside of their household. The county now follows the state’s mask mandates.
Violation counts as a misdemeanor and could lead to a fine of up to $5,000, up to a year in prison or both.
These rules are a departure from how President Joe Biden reacted earlier in the day to the new guidance, where he and staff attended a press conference without masks, according to The Associated Press.
“Get vaccinated — or wear a mask until you do,” Biden said Thursday.
CDC guidance continues to recommend masking up in crowded indoor settings, like inside of a hospital and shelter or when taking public transportation like buses and planes.
“Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities — large or small — without wearing a mask or physically distancing,” Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, said at an earlier White House briefing, according to AP. “If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic.”
This story was updated at 8:38 a.m., Friday, May 14 to clarify the county’s mask mandates.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.