HONOLULU — Hawaii Gov. David Ige has announced plans to sign an emergency proclamation that would clarify the current statewide mask mandate aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19.
The Democratic governor told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Monday that he met with all four county mayors last week to create identical rules for mask requirements on each of the islands, meaning each county would be subject to the same language.
“It will be required for everyone in the state of Hawaii to wear a mask while they’re in public,” Ige said. “Period.”
The mandate is expected to provide some exemptions, which will also be the same across each of the counties. Ige, a Democrat, did not immediately provide further details about the exemptions.
The announcement came after concerns emerged that residents and visitors will be confused with various regulations. Visitor industry leaders requested a legislative special session to make the rules clear.
Some have also raised concerns about the misdemeanor penalty for people who violate the order, which can result in fines up to $5,000 and the possibility of a permanent criminal record.
Ige said it would be cumbersome to try to create a uniform mask mandate in a legislative special session and to reduce the penalties through legislation.
It was unclear when the statewide mask mandate updates will take effect.
Hawaii has had more than 16,400 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including more than 200 deaths since the pandemic began in March, health officials said.
There have been 173 virus-related deaths on Oahu, 31 on Hawaii island, 17 on Maui and one from Kauai who died on the mainland.
The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.