Officials: Starting Aug. 1, masks are optional for public school students

Masks will be optional for Hawaii public and charter school students starting Aug. 1, according to both Department of Health and Department of Education officials.

“We will no longer recommend universal masking in most situations,” State Epidemiologist Sarah Kemble said earlier today. “We will be strongly encouraging students, teachers and staff to wear masks indoors when CDC levels are medium or high.”


The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s medium and high classifications are based on the current number of hospitalizations, as well as case rates for communities. Currently, all counties throughout Hawaii are labeled as high or medium by the CDC.

Quarantine measures also will be adjusted. Students exposed to COVID-19 will not be required to complete the five-day quarantine, Kemble. said.

Adjustments on masking will be made on a case-by-case basis regarding classrooms with high rates of cases or exposure.

“For example, if there’s a cluster in a specific classroom, we will recommend everyone in that classroom wear masks for the duration of exposure and the quarantine period after that,” said Kemble. “We will not be recommending that students in that classroom go home to quarantine if exposed.”

Kemble said the reasons for the change in policy included the widespread availability of vaccines, including for those under the age of 5, the availability of boosters for most age groups, high levels of immunity from both vaccination and natural infection, and a smaller number of ICU visits.

Additional revised guidance for schools will be published on the DOH and DOE websites in the next few weeks. The DOE is continuing to develop a channel of communication for parents ahead of the fall semester.

“Please understand masks are a fantastic tool, and when used correctly, they are able to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said Kemble. “We still want everyone to consider masking indoors and in fact we encourage it, especially when COVID levels are high or medium.”

For more, see Wednesday’s edition of the Tribune-Herald.

Email Grant Phillips at

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