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Planning to visit the grocery store? Honolulu mayor mandates face masks for everyone entering essential businesses

                                Mayor Kirk Caldwell said Tuesday that anyone conducting a business transaction will need to wear a nonsurgical mask. The mandate will go into effect Monday.
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Mayor Kirk Caldwell said Tuesday that anyone conducting a business transaction will need to wear a nonsurgical mask. The mandate will go into effect Monday.

Hoping to buy a meal or conduct some other business transaction on Oahu?

Starting Monday, everyone conducting a business transaction on the island will need to wear a nonsurgical mask.

The new mandate is an amendment to the “stay-at-home, work-from-home” order issued by Mayor Kirk Caldwell on March 23 to help fend off community spread of the new corona- virus.

The new mask requirement applies to riders and drivers of TheBus and TheHandi-Van.

“If you’re going to go to a grocery store, both me as a customer needs to wear a mask and the people who work at the store that interact with the customer need to wear a mask — like the checkout counter person, maybe the person putting grocery on the shelves that I talk to,” Caldwell said.

Exemptions include, due to security issues, transactions occurring inside financial institutions as well as automated teller machines (ATMs). It will also not apply to people with asthma or other respiratory medical problems that would make it difficult for them to breathe.

The mask requirement will not apply to workers in close proximity to each other during the day if they do not interact with the public, Caldwell said, although he highly recommends that co-workers do wear masks and practice social distancing.

“Everyone should wear a mask — everyone,” Caldwell said. At this point, he said, the mandate applies to people of all ages, although the city might ease the restriction later for the very young.

He noted that only essential businesses — including takeout restaurants, other retailers that sell food and medical care facilities — are supposed to be conducting transactions out of their traditional establishments in the first place.

For purposes of the new order, nonmedical masks can be any facial covering, the mayor said. “It could be a scarf, it could a wraparound, it could be some kind of bandanna.”

He urged the public not to use N-95 or other types of masks that are needed for those who have the coronavirus or who interact with those who do.

Dr. Anne Wright, a resident physician, said everyone needs to wear a mask if Oahu is to “flatten the curve,” ensuring the hospitals and other medical facilities are not overrun by waves of critical coronavirus patients as has happened in other cities.

“This is aloha in its truest sense,” Wright said. “These face coverings are really not meant to protect you directly, but more indirectly,” she said. “So it is protecting the environment from you. … If only half of us wear these face coverings, it’s just not going to work.”

The federal Centers for Disease Control on April 3 formally recommended that all U.S. citizens wear nonsurgical masks as a form of protecting against the spread of COVID-19.

For someone found in violation, a judge could impose a maximum misdemeanor penalty of one year in jail and/or a $5,000 fine.

Caldwell said the order will take effect Monday to allow people time to obtain masks.

An organization know as Every1ne Hawaii is providing free masks to those in need. Wright, who is affiliated with the group, urged the public not to request masks unless they truly need them.

The group is asking that requests be made — no later than 4 p.m. Friday — by filling out an online form at the group’s website, www.every1nehawaii.com.

Wright urged groups or individuals who can make donations of masks to contribute to Every1ne Hawaii’s cause. She said the group will be organizing drive-thru mask distribution events as well.

Robert Kurisu, another Every1ne Hawaii member, said the group expects to donate 100,000 masks to various nonprofit community organizations by the end of this week.

“We know there are still a lot of people who still don’t have masks, and we hear you,” said Kurisu, son of Duane Kurisu, who spearheaded the Kahauiki Village project at Sand Island for homeless individuals. “So over the next couple of weeks, we’re committed to providing millions of masks to our precious community, and we’ll keep going until Hawaii defeats COVID-19.”

Zak Noyle, a spokesman for Every1ne Hawaii, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser after the news conference that his group is composed of younger Oahu residents who want to pool their resources and knowledge for the greater good of the community. Every1ne Hawaii, which was conceived before the coronavirus outbreak, is becoming a registered nonprofit, he said.

Caldwell also announced the latest drive-thru free COVID-19 testing events for this weekend, conducted in conjunction with Dr. Scott Miskovich’s Premiere Medical Group.

This weekend’s testing events will be from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie, Sunday at Kakaako Waterfront Park and Monday at Koko Head District Park.

The events have been held each weekend for about a month.

“The City and County of Honolulu is an absolute believer in rapid testing, contact tracing and isolation,” Caldwell said.

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