weather icon Mostly Cloudy

Hawaii keeping mask mandate in place

HONOLULU — Despite having among the lowest coronavirus infection and mortality rates in the nation, Hawaii will keep its statewide mask mandate in place for now.

Even as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced vaccinated people can now ditch masks and social distancing in most situations, Hawaii Gov. David Ige said Thursday he’s not ready to loosen rules in the islands.

“We are unable to determine who is vaccinated and who is not vaccinated,” Ige said. “The best mitigation measure is for everyone to wear a mask.”

Ige said he would review the CDC guidance and plans to incorporate vaccination rates into future restriction guidelines, but for now people in Hawaii must keep their masks on.

“The state mask mandate continues to be in force,” Ige said. “The CDC is not able to help us identify who is vaccinated and who is not, and that detail is left to the state and counties.”

Ige said he hopes to get more adults and children vaccinated and for the state to be closer to herd immunity before making major changes.

About 40% of Hawaii’s residents are fully vaccinated. The state has among the highest vaccination rates in the U.S.

Ige is facing opposition from some officials.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green said he believes the state’s mask mandate should be lifted for fully vaccinated people.

Lifting the mandate is “part of the process to return to normalcy and to trust the vaccines,” Green said. “I think the state should adopt that because we believe in science.”

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz sent a letter to Ige this week asking him to review restrictions on youth sports.

“We already allow people on beaches, we allow gatherings in bars, and we permit other outdoor activities, but we inexplicably do not allow parents and guardians to watch their own kids play sports outside in the sunshine and open air,” Schatz wrote.

It’s “time that we begin to reward the people of Hawaii for being one of the most responsible states in the country in responding to COVID-19,” Schatz said.

Community members had mixed reactions.

“There’s lot of people on different sides of the issue. Personally, I’ve been vaccinated so I like the fact that I don’t have to wear a mask,” said Honolulu resident Rick Tune.

But resident Taylor Vitarelli agrees with the governor.

“I think we should still wear masks because even though a lot of people are vaccinated some people don’t have that opportunity,” she said.

Rules in Hawaii are different on some islands.

The state requires people to wear a face mask while indoors in public. Everyone must also wear masks outdoors in public when physical distancing is not possible. However, on Maui, officials require masks outdoors even when social distancing can be maintained.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
COVID-19 cases delay Royal Caribbean cruise in Florida

Royal Caribbean International is postponing for nearly a month one of the highly anticipated first sailings from the U.S. since the pandemic began because eight crew members tested positive for COVID-19, the company’s CEO said.

Phoenix sees record temperatures as heat wave grips West

Phoenix tied a record for the second day in a row when it reached 115 degrees Wednesday and was expected to hit 117 each of the next two days, the National Weather Service said.

US housing crisis grows worse, millions fear eviction

More than 4 million people say they fear being evicted or foreclosed upon in the coming months just as two studies released Wednesday found that the nation’s housing availability and affordability crisis is expected to worsen significantly.

Hubble Space Telescope hit with computer trouble

Launched in 1990, Hubble is showing more and more signs of aging, despite a series of repairs and updates by spacewalking astronauts during NASA’s shuttle era.

Biden, Putin differ on simmering issues between US, Russia

Putin insisted anew that his country has nothing to do with such attacks, despite U..S. intelligence that indicates otherwise.

NSA contractor in leak case out of prison

Reality Winner, 29, has been moved to home confinement and remains in the custody of the federal Bureau of Prisons.

Girl Scouts have millions of unsold cookies

As the pandemic wore into the spring selling season, many troops nixed their traditional cookie booths for safety reasons.