Hawaii public school students to remain masked for summer

HONOLULU — Public school students in Hawaii will be required to wear masks while indoors for summer classes and related activities.

State officials said at a news conference Wednesday that the measure is meant to keep students and families safe. Hawaii is the only state in the nation that still has a universal indoor mask requirement for public school students.

Hawaii’s State Epidemiologist Sarah Kemble said officials are still discussing whether to keep the rule in place for the fall term.

“We will continue to review the numbers and the data in the coming weeks as we move through the early months of summer,” Kemble said. “We will be issuing further guidance about the fall, but we don’t have that at this time.”

Hawaii has seen a steady rise in new COVID-19 infections over the last seven weeks. State health officials are warning people to be on guard as residents plan graduation ceremonies. The state has been handing out free at-home tests for people to use prior to attending school events.

Hawaii was the last state in the nation to drop its statewide mask mandate at the end of March. The federal mask rule for domestic flights was also recently struck down, leaving tourists and other travelers unmasked on crowded flights.

New data released by the state shows the average case count for the most recent seven day reporting period was 722 per day, up from 485 cases per day last week. All Hawaii counties are in the yellow or medium risk range under Centers for Disease Control and Prevention community masking guidelines.

“Hospitalizations continue to rise and ICU admissions are now also increasing, so I think this is a really important juncture,” Kemble said. “Case counts alone don’t tell the whole story, but we are now seeing the repercussions for severe disease and accumulating cases in our hospitals.”

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