Statewide mask mandate set

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald A woman wearing a mask walks across Haili Street while shopping Thursday in downtown Hilo.

Gov. David Ige signed an emergency proclamation Monday to codify and clarify Hawaii’s statewide mask mandate.

“It will be required for everyone in the state of Hawaii to wear a mask when they’re in public, period,” Ige said Monday morning during a Honolulu Star-Advertiser Facebook Live stream.

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Noncompliance is a misdemeanor, with penalties of up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $5,000 upon conviction. All the counties have their own misdemeanor mask mandates, but the rules and the exceptions differ from county to county.

Ige said that after a meeting Friday with the state’s four county mayors, it was agreed that “the exact same set of exemptions” will apply in all of the counties, “so that there will be consistent enforcement.”

“We all agreed that it’s important that we have a single message and consistent exceptions,” the governor said (see related story).

“This is a significant penalty. It can go on one’s criminal record and impact employment for many years to come, unless they’re cleared and their records are expunged,” Ige said.

The governor has previously said he’d seek legislation during the next session of the state Legislature starting Jan. 20 to change the mask mandate to a civil violation similar to a traffic offense, where a fine is levied. He again rejected the idea of requesting a special session of the Legislature for a new mask law.

“Instituting a new fine system is complex,” he said. “There will be lots of discussions that will need to happen to determine what’s appropriate penalties. And I don’t think it’s really conducive to doing it in a special session where time is of the essence.”

Business people and tourism industry officials have complained about messaging concerning face coverings, saying it wasn’t consistent and that people could reasonably come away with the impression that masking up wasn’t mandatory under the law.

Ige also said the 14-day interisland travel quarantine will remain in effect “at least for a couple more weeks,” saying the mayors of the three neighbor island counties “do continue to have concern about the number of cases here on Oahu, and about restricting the spread to the neighbor islands.”

“We did expand the pre-travel testing program, and we now have trusted partners here on Oahu that can provide tests and administer the tests so that those (who test negative) can travel to the neighbor islands and be exempted from the quarantine requirements,” he said. “As we see the virus counts normalize in all of the counties, we will again reconsider just dropping the interisland quarantine, altogether.”

With Thanksgiving a little more than a week away, Ige asked people to “find new ways to celebrate the holidays in ways that doesn’t put your family and the community at risk.” He added community spread of the virus is occurring “in very informal settings” when people “let their guard down” while in the company of people with whom they’re familiar.

“We’re asking everyone to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday amongst your family, as primary, unless you’re certain that those you are inviting are not infected with the virus,” he said. “And clearly, we’re asking people if you are invited to a Thanksgiving celebration with people you don’t know, have been traveling, or don’t know for a fact are not exposed or infected, then politely we should be declining those invitations.”

With Hawaii National Guard members deployed as virus contact tracers and to conduct health screenings of passengers at the airports, among other functions, Ige said he asked President Donald Trump to extend coronavirus relief funding — which expires at the end of the year — so Hawaii can continue using its citizen-soldiers for those functions.

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“If we lose federal support for the National Guard, I do not have the resources to deploy them to the level that they are as we speak,” he said. “… It’s going to be difficult. … The National Guard has been such a vital part of our response to this COVID pandemic. And they’re irreplaceable, but we just can’t afford it at this point in time, so we’ll be downscaling their activities.”

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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