Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said once again today he supports a statewide mask mandate, as well as legislative changes to make it more like a traffic infraction than a criminal misdemeanor.
Caldwell said he supported giving police the ability to issue, for example, a $100 fine for failing to wear a mask, rather than burdening the state judiciary system.
Currently, the City and County of Honolulu’s mask mandate requires face masks be worn everywhere indoors except for at one’s office desk or at one’s home. Outdoors, face masks are required when 6 feet of physical distancing can not be maintained from another person outside of your household.
So, for instance, the mayor said, someone jogging around Diamond Head with no one around does not have to wear a face mask, but will need to once someone approaches within 6 feet.
Under the current Hawaii Revised Statute 127-A, people who violate the mandate can be issued a citation for a misdemeanor, which means they can be fined up to $5,000 and/or up to one year in prison and are entitled to a jury trial.
Honolulu police have issued up to 60,000 coronavirus-related enforcement violations, so far.
“It puts a great burden on the officers of the Honolulu Police Department and it puts a great burden on the judicial system of the state of Hawaii,” he said. “The City and County of Honolulu is in fact, giving $1.8 million of Oahu CARES money to the state judiciary to help handle the processing of all these citations.”
Caldwell said he believed the Hawaii State Legislature should hold a special session to address the mask mandate, and amend the statute so that the fine is less severe, and more like a traffic infraction — a $100 fine, for example, for not wearing a mask after a warning has been issued.
Violators would not have to go to court, but would pay for the fine as they would a parking ticket, and mail it in, he said.
At the same time, Caldwell supports a statewide and federal mandate for mask wearing, and added that he was pleased to hear President-Elect Joe Biden would support a mask mandate for all 50 U.S. states.
“Masks make a difference,” said Caldwell, recalling infection disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci’s comment that wearing a mask is the next best thing to a vaccine.
While the state Health Department has placed mask compliance on Oahu at about 84%, Caldwell said his main concerns were with people that let their guards down with friends, neighbors and other family members not living in the same household.
Mask wearing can play a major role in decreasing the spread of COVID-19 if at least 95% of people here wore them, according to Lt. Gov. Josh Green, who also wants Hawaii legislators to hold a special session this month to pass a statewide mandatory mask-wearing law.
Caldwell made the comments during a news conference this afternoon unveiling the new Downtown Art Center at Chinatown Gateway Center.