Maui Coronavirus Updates

Hawai‘i Mask Mandate Lifted for Outdoors

By Wendy Osher
May 25, 2021, 3:02 PM HST
* Updated May 27, 5:47 AM
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Gov. David Ige. PC: Office of Gov. David Ige. File (April 12, 2021)

Effective immediately, Hawaiʻi’s mask mandate has been lifted for outdoors, but remains in place for indoors. When outdoors, people are still encouraged to mask up when in large groups of 10 people or more.

The announcement was among a list of changes to Hawaiʻi’s COVID-19 emergency measures that Governor David Ige discussed today during an afternoon press briefing.

Other changes include: lifting the suspension on ocean sports competitions as of June 1; approvals to allow other outdoor organized sports on Oʻahu; and creating two additional Tiers to emergency orders on Kauaʻi.

There’s also discussion underway to allow people who were vaccinated in Hawaiʻi, the ability to travel to the mainland and return to Hawaiʻi without having to undergo a quarantine or pre-travel test prior to their return.

In making the announcement, Gov. Ige said the state has been making good progress on vaccinations, with 57 percent of the population having received at least one dose, and just under 50 percent completing a full course of vaccination. He noted that the state is seeing fewer cases of the virus and fewer hospitalizations.

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“Because we’ve made significant progress, I’ve signed an emergency proclamation making an amendment that will lift the mask mandate for while you are outdoors… this is effective immediately and statewide,” said Gov. Ige.

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“You will not be required to wear a mask while outside; however, we do strongly encourage everyone when they are outside in large groups to continue to wear a mask. The mask mandate is not changing indoors. The virus is still circulating in our community and unvaccinated people are particularly at risk. Until more are vaccinated, we must continue to take precautions indoors and in large groups because those actions are important to slow the spread of COVID-19.”

State Health Director, Dr. Libby Char said that Hawaiʻi’s mask rules are different than the CDC because it covers all people across the state, regardless of being vaccinated. She said it will allow for youth sports without having to wear a mask.

Suspension on Ocean Sports Competitions Gets Lifted on June 1

Beginning on June 1, the state is lifting the suspension on ocean sports competitions. This includes events such as surfing, canoe paddling, and swimming amongst others.

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“The state will resume issuing permits for ocean activities and the counties will be able to issue permits for the use of their parks. Permits will be issued, provided that public health and safety protocols are followed to protect our communities, contestants, and spectators,” said Gov. Ige.

US Senator Brian Schatz today released a statement saying, “Surfing and outrigger canoe paddling are so much more than sports. They are a part of our culture and a way of life. I look forward to seeing our kids out in the water competing in surf contests and regattas again.”

Earlier this month, Schatz called on Governor Ige to lift these restrictions, citing Hawai‘i’s progress on vaccinations and its low case counts, as well as the importance of safely lifting restrictions and returning to a more normal life.

Last week, Maui professional surfer, Ian Walsh spoke out about the restriction on ocean sport competitions for kids and its impact on youth. His comments came in the wake of a community organized sign waving demonstration at Lahaina Harbor held earlier in the week.

Changes to Safe Travels Program Expected Next Month; Making Return Trips Easier for Those Vaccinated in Hawaiʻi

If Hawaiʻi’s vaccination program is successful, Gov. Ige said he expects to make changes to the Safe Travels program next month.

“The next step that we would pursue would be to provide a quarantine exemption for Trans-Pacific travelers who were vaccinated here in Hawaiʻi next month,” said Gov. Ige.

Gov. Ige said the state is in the process of upgrading software to allow the state access to vaccination records.

“We anticipate being able to complete those updates, and once that’s done, it would give the ability of those vaccinated in Hawaiʻi that travel to mainland–they would have the ability to return without the quarantine,” according to the governor.

“As more and more people are vaccinated, we will begin to use vaccination metrics for other policy decisions as we move forward,” he said.

In addition, the state continues to work with third-party verification services and hopes to offer the same quarantine exceptions to travelers vaccinated in other states later this summer.

Maui Post Arrival Rapid Test to Continue to at Least June 4

On Maui, there were just two positive COVID-19 cases confirmed to date out of the nearly 60,000 post-arrival tests taken since the additional measure was implemented on May 4.

With the low positivity rate found among those who were given a post arrival test, Maui Mayor Michael Victorino said he intends to potentially end the program on June 4 if low positivity rates continue. To date, the program has cost the county approximately $1.7 million.

“But it also gave us… very important information–that the variants that are out there are not being brought in by outside sources. Some of them may already exist and we have to be more mindful of community spread versus the visitor and returning resident who might have been thought were bring it into us,” said Mayor Victorino.

The County of Maui began the secondary test upon arrival at Kahului Airport for trans-Pacific flights. The post-arrival test is for both visitors and returning residents who arrive directly from a mainland gateway city into Kahului Airport.  

Maui County currently provides an exception for fully vaccinated trans-Pacific travelers from the post-arrival rapid COVID test requirement with proof of vaccination. They still need to take a pre-departure test to receive the travel quarantine exception.  Further details and FAQs are posted here.

Requests on Oʻahu and Kauaʻi Approved by Gov. Ige

This morning, Gov. Ige approved the City and County of Honolulu’s request to allow other outdoor organized sports, according to the governor’s announcement. The equest to lift canopy restrictions and allow tournaments in city parks takes effect June 1. 

“We are grateful multi-team sports tournaments like baseball and soccer, canoe regattas, and ocean sports competitions are once again allowed and just in time for summer,” said Mayor Rick Blangiardi. “As the community continues to get vaccinated, we believe the outdoor sports and activities are safe and we will continue to work with the Governor and State on easing additional restrictions. In the meantime, I urge those who have not been vaccinated to please go and get your dose, not just for you, but for our community.”

Gov. Ige also signed Kauaʻi Mayor Derek Kawakami’s request for changes in their emergency orders, which will further loosen restrictions on Kaua‘i when Hawai‘i reaches COVID-19 vaccination milestones.

“Kauaʻi is creating a new Tier 5, which takes effect when 60 percent of their community is fully vaccinated and the seven day average is below three, and the percent positivity is below 1. They also created a Tier 6, which is 70 percent of the community is fully vaccinated, and they withdraw all of their restrictions,” said Gov. Ige.

“We are grateful to the governor for allowing us the opportunity to incorporate our vaccine rate into our COVID response plan as we know that vaccines are the best way for our community to protect itself from this virus,” said Mayor Derek Kawakami. “We are hopeful that this is a model that could be used statewide to potentially loosen other restrictions moving forward. The vaccines are safe and effective. I’ve had mine and so has my family, and I hope more residents will join us.”

Wendy Osher
Wendy Osher leads the Maui Now news team. She is also the news voice of parent company, Pacific Media Group, having served more than 20 years as News Director for the company’s six Maui radio stations.
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