By KIM JARRETT
THE CENTER SQUARE
(The Center Square) – Hawaii’s indoor mask mandate will expire on March 25 when the latest state of emergency expires, Gov. David Ige announced Tuesday.
Hawaii is the last state to still have an indoor mask mandate.
“Together, we have reduced COVID-19 in Hawaii to the point where most of us will be safe without masks indoors,” Gov. Ige said in a news release. “Right now, hospitalizations are trending down. Case counts are falling. We are better at treating people who are infected. Booster shots are saving lives.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has rated the state’s COVID-19 community level as “low,” Gov. Ige said.
But health officials said they are still recommending that masks be worn in schools.
“We are no longer recommending quarantine for students who are exposed to COVID-19 at school,” said Dr. Sarah Kemble, the state’s epidemiologist. “Masks provide a layer of protection as we amend the school quarantine guidance.”
State Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Char said the move is supported by the data and trends.
“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,” Dr. Char said. “This is especially important in crowded settings.”
State health officials also still recommend masks for hospitals, health care facilities, shelters, correctional facilities and other congregate living settings.
House Minority Whip Val Okimoto pushed for an end to the indoor mask mandate after the CDC announced new guidelines for masks on March 1.
“It’s time we moved from government restriction to personal responsibility,” Mr. Okimoto said in a social media post Tuesday night.
The state will be ready to reinstitute the mask policy if COVID-19 case numbers surge, Ige said.
The state is also ending its Safe Travels program on March 25, which required all visitors to the state to be fully vaccinated or show a negative COVID-19 test in order to avoid a mandatory quarantine.
State officials opened the Hawaii State Capitol to the public on Monday for the first time in two years. Visitors must show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test taken within the past 72 hours.