Hawai‘i Follows CDC Guidance in Recommending Face Masks in Public
The state is formulating a policy on the voluntary use of facemasks in public. The action comes based on national guidance released from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which now recommends wearing a cloth face covering in public, particularly when buying groceries, going to pharmacies and getting take out food.
Maui Mayor Michael Victorino began asking for similar compliance earlier this week.
“I ask you now to wear a mask as much as possible if you have one available. And many people are making them now. They’re all over. If you don’t have a mask, then even a bandana would be helpful. Something is better than nothing,” said Mayor Victorino on Thursday.
Dr. Lee Weiss with Emergent Care Services at Maui Health, agrees that the measure could prove to be beneficial, but should not be a substitute for social distancing, hand washing and other measures.
“I would say to people on Maui, that the population density is lower,” than places in California which have already implemented the recommendation; “but if you’re going to be in and around other people–shopping in a supermarket… I think that there might be some benefit to it,” said Dr. Weiss during a radio interview on KPOA 93.5 FM on Thursday.
Dr. Weiss said surgical masks and N95s are in critical need and should be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders. “A–those are all but not available; (and) B–it would be terrible overkill and you would be using a product, literally taking it out of the hands of health care who need them desperately,” he said.
He noted that for the general public face protection is encouraged, and said even a bandana would suffice. “I think an ounce of prevention is important,” said Dr. Weiss.
The public is asked to refrain from using surgical masks or N-95 masks, which are considered critical supplies that need to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders.
“Although there is no current data to demonstrate that homemade, cloth masks are effective for individual protection, it is reasonable to assume that wearing a fabric mask can help prevent the spread of infection to others,” state officials said today.
The CDC now recommends wearing a cloth face covering in public settings particularly where other physical distancing measures are difficult to maintain such as grocery stores, pharmacies, and takeout food establishments.
“Many of us may be walking around unaware that we may be carrying coronavirus, and when we cough, sneeze, and to a lesser degree, even speak, cloth masks can block infectious droplets and prevent the virus from spreading,” said Health Director Bruce Anderson in a state issued press release. “Protection of others is maximized when facemasks are used. However, it is important to avoid touching your face when wearing and adjusting a mask. Remember, my facemask protects you and your facemask protects me.”
CDC guidance emphasizes that maintaining 6-feet physical distancing remains important for slowing the spread of the virus. Masks are primarily considered an infection source control measure, designed to keep sick people from spreading their germs. Masks complement other physical distancing measures, which are the most effective means of containing community spread. Masks are not a substitute for stay-at-home orders and are less effective than frequent handwashing, avoiding touching your face, and simply staying away from people who are ill.
“There is no need to wear a cloth mask when you’re outdoors and not in close proximity to anyone else,” Anderson concluded. “Being outside in fresh air is good for us, and there is no risk of being infected as long as you’re not around other people. So, we encourage people to walk, run, and surf…as long as you practice good physical distancing. Don’t hesitate to remind others to do the same.”