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VIDEO: Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell announces mandate to wear face coverings indoors

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Mayor Kirk Caldwell today announced an amendment to Honolulu’s emergency order that mandates face coverings for indoor businesses and government buildings, as well as outdoors, where physical distancing is not practicable.

At a news conference held at Honolulu Hale this afternoon, Caldwell said this mandate was crucial to keeping COVID-19 case numbers down heading into the three-day weekend, and as numbers surge on the U.S. mainland. The mandate goes into effect Friday.

“It’s the day before the three-day Fourth of July weekend, probably the most different Fourth of July that we’ve celebrated since the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918,” said Caldwell. “And as of yesterday the United States of America hit a new record in terms of the number of COVID-19 cases in any one-day period — 53,000 cases in a single day — 53,000.”

States such as Florida, Texas, Arizona and California have recently seen cases spike anywhere from about 5,000 to 8,000, and their governors and mayors are rolling back or slowing down the reopening of their economies.

In New York City, however, Caldwell said mandated face coverings, in addition to physical distancing and isolating those who were sick, helped the number of COVID-19 cases drop by more than 66,000 during a three-week period between April 17 and May 9.

“Wearing a face covering made all the difference,” he said. “This one thing, wearing a face covering, made all the difference. It’s critical if we’re going to manage the cases here in the City and County of Honolulu.”

Caldwell said the amendment — which was already approved by Gov. David Ige — will mandate the wearing of face coverings indoors, whether it be in a private office or public government building or enclosed mall. In addition, when outdoors, individuals must wear one when physical distancing is not practicable because of the proximity of others.

It is not required for jogging or walking a dog, he said, but should be worn where practicable when six feet of distance can not be maintained.

The exemptions earlier announced still apply: Facial coverings are not required at banking or financial institutions; for those under age 5; those with breathing or other health conditions; for first responders where it would impede their ability to do their jobs.

Those with health conditions, however, can wear a face shield as an alternative, Caldwell said.

Dr. Jill Omori, the city’s infectious disease officer, said both the Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization have recommended the use of face coverings to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

It might not be comfortable, she added, but “you are not only protecting yourself, you’re being a socially responsible member of society by wearing a facial covering and preventing the spread of disease.”

Up to 40% of individuals can spread COVID-19 without having symptoms, she said

“If everyone actually wore facial coverings we could prevent much more spread than even the very strictest lockdowns,” she said, “So if we’re able to also comply with the mandate, we will see our numbers go significantly down.”

Those who do not comply with the facial covering mandate can be issued warnings by police, and then cited, said Caldwell. It would be considered a misdemeanor, with up to a $5,000 fine.

Watch the press conference above or via the mayor’s Facebook page.

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