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Gov. David Ige announced the decision during a press briefing, saying that the mandate would be dropped on March 26.
“We have reduced COVID-19 in a way to the point where most of us will be safe without masks indoors,” the governor, a Democrat, said.
“It’s taken the entire community to get to this point—with lowered case counts and hospitalizations,” Ige further said in a tweet.
He added, “If we see another surge, we will be ready to reinstitute the mask policy, if needed.”
The mandate will be lifted on the same day as Hawaii’s Safe Travels program, established to curb the transmission of COVID-19, is set to expire. Those arriving from other places in the United States will no longer have to show proof of vaccination or a negative test to avoid quarantining for five days.
It comes a day after Puerto Rico announced that its mask requirement will be dropped and that its COVID-19 travel restrictions would end.
“I want to once again thank everyone for their hard work and commitment to keeping our community safe. I know this is a milestone many have been waiting for,” Ige said on Twitter.
Ige said Hawaii’s COVID-19 case counts and hospitalizations are decreasing. The seven-day new case average is about 140, he said, while a week ago it was more than 300. There were 48 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 on Tuesday. He said that’s the first time the number has been under 50 since around last summer.
He said he expects the downward trends to continue.
Gov. David Ige speaks to reporters at the state Department of Health’s laboratory in Pearl City, Hawaii, on March 3, 2020. (Audrey McAvoy/AP Photo)
Since April 2020, the state of Hawaii has required face masks. At first, it was both indoors and outdoors.
Ige said Hawaii’s culture of caring for others, especially kupuna, or older people in Hawaiian, helped the state tolerate the mask rule for so long.
“I do believe that we are the last community to release the mask mandate because we care about each other and we care about our community and we are all willing to sacrifice to keep each other healthy and safe,” he said.
The governor said he believes these rules have contributed to Hawaii having among the lowest rates of COVID-19 in the country.
Hawaii health officials still recommend wearing masks indoors at schools, hospitals, prisons and other “congregate living settings.”
Ige also said that “organizations and businesses can choose to implement restrictions that they feel would be appropriate.”
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