Some celebrated, while others remained wary of, new federal guidelines saying fully vaccinated Americans do not need to wear a mask outdoors — unless at large, crowded events.
On Tuesday the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said fully vaccinated Americans do not need to cover their faces outdoors, even if within 6 feet of others not from the same household.
Fully vaccinated people can, for instance, attend a small gathering with others — vaccinated or not — and dine outdoors with friends from multiple households.
“Generally for vaccinated people, outdoor activities without a mask are safe,” said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. “However we continue to recommend masking in crowded outdoor settings and venues such as packed stadiums and concerts where there is decreased ability to maintain physical distance and where many unvaccinated people may also be present. We will continue to recommend this until widespread vaccination is achieved.”
There were no immediate changes to Hawaii’s mask mandate, which remain in effect.
Statewide, face coverings are required over nose and mouth in public settings as well as outdoors if one cannot maintain 6 feet of distance from others of a different household, with a few exceptions.
“The latest CDC guidelines on mask requirements are being reviewed by Gov. Ige, the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, the (Attorney General)’s office, the Department of Health and the county mayors,” said the governor’s office in a statement. “If any adjustments are made to the emergency proclamation as a result of the latest CDC guidelines, the Office of the Governor will make that announcement.”
Mayor Rick Blangiardi said his administration looked forward to working with the governor and other county mayors regarding potential changes to the mandate.
“A main takeaway is that people who are fully vaccinated are safer and have less risk when doing things like visiting friends and family and participating in outdoor activities without a mask,” said Blangiardi in a statement. “It is a positive step forward and highlights the need for more people, particularly younger people, to get vaccinated so we can move toward a day without restrictions.”
First child fatality
On Tuesday the state Department of Health recorded its first pediatric fatality: a boy under age 11.
The boy had underlying health conditions, according to DOH, which did not reveal his exact age due to privacy. He and his parents — who tested negative before traveling and were both fully vaccinated — were visiting Hawaii from another state.
Health officials said the boy experienced COVID-19 symptoms within hours after arriving in the islands and was taken to a hospital, where he died.
While possible sources of exposure are still under investigation, the DOH said it was unlikely the child was exposed here. He was not tested prior to travel.
The boy’s death is the first one under age 17 recorded for Hawaii, DOH said, while there have been six for ages 18 to 29.
On Tuesday one death was reported, along with 54 additional infections statewide, bringing the state’s totals since the start of the pandemic to 479 fatalities and 32,041 cases.
Among the new cases were 37 on Oahu, eight on Maui, five on Hawaii island, two on Kauai and two Hawaii residents diagnosed out of state.
The seven-day average of daily new cases was at 77, and the positivity rate was 1.4%.
Mixed mask reactions
Laurie Mages, a registered nurse visiting Oahu from Chicago after postponing a trip last year, saw the CDC mask news as something to celebrate, particularly after a year of treating COVID-19 patients.
She was enjoying the day at Kailua Beach Park, where few others were masked.
“I think that based on the virology, the study of virus, it’s the best way to proceed,” said Mages, who is fully vaccinated. “It’s the only way to progress, to go back to our new normal that we’re creating — a new normal. This is another step toward the progression of a new normalcy.”
Mages spent the past year urging others to wear masks, and continues to recommend doing so in enclosed areas, particularly for those not fully vaccinated.
The CDC says unvaccinated people — those who have yet to receive both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine — should continue to wear masks at small outdoor gatherings that include other unvaccinated people.
Also, they should keep their faces covered when dining at outdoor restaurants with friends from multiple households.
Angela Keen, founder of Hawaii Quarantine Kapu Breakers, was more wary. The community watchdog group had previously expressed concerns about fewer people wearing masks in places like Waikiki and Lahaina.
“I think because we now have a mixed population of vaccinated, partially vaccinated and unvaccinated, we really have to be very cautious, especially in Hawaii, where we’re getting people from all over the world,” said Keen, a COVID survivor who is fully vaccinated. “I’m OK with people socially distanced outside on the beach where it’s sunny and the wind is blowing, and probably when people are exercising, that makes sense. But when we’re crowded together in Waikiki in tourism areas where people are gathering, it’s an issue.”
She said crowds tend to form in Waikiki while people are standing around or in line, waiting for a table at a restaurant.
The state continues its push to vaccinate more Hawaii residents – including those under the age of 50, now the majority of new COVID-19 cases — as well as kupuna who have not received their first doses yet.
As of Tuesday, 1,172,923 COVID-19 vaccine doses had been administered, according to preliminary numbers, about 11,500 more than Monday.
Lt. Gov. Josh Green on Monday’s Spotlight Hawaii agreed the least risky place to catch COVID-19 is outdoors.
But he continued to urge caution until the state reaches herd immunity, which he said is within reach in about two months if the current pace of vaccinations continues.
“Keep in mind, no matter what the government says or I say or your doctor says, no matter what, you are safer with a mask on, especially if you’ve not been vaccinated,” said Green. “Once you’re fully vaccinated, you’re around other people who are fully vaccinated, you aren’t at such risk. You’re around strangers, you just don’t know whether they’ve been vaccinated or not, and that should be your consideration.”
Vaccination appointments are available statewide for all residents 16 and up via local pharmacies as well as at the Pier 2 Vaccination Center, Blaisdell Center and Kaiser’s Consolidated Theatre site in Kapolei, among others.
To find options, visit hawaiicovid19.com/vaccination-registration.
UPDATED MASK GUIDELINES
Safe unmasked, fully vaccinated
>> Attend a small, outdoor gathering with fully vaccinated and unvaccinated people.
>> Dine at an outdoor restaurant with friends from multiple households.
Should mask, even if fully vaccinated
>> Attend a crowded, outdoor event, like a live performance, parade or sports event.
Safe unmasked, unvaccinated or fully vaccinated
>> Walk, run or bike outdoors with other members of your household.
>> Attend a small, outdoor gathering with fully vaccinated family and friends.
Should mask, both unvaccinated and fully vaccinated
>> Visit a barber or hair salon.
>> Go to an uncrowded, indoor shopping center or museum.
>> Ride public transport with limited occupancy.