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Kokua Line: How many more people must get vaccinated before Hawaii will lift its rule on wearing face masks?

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Question: Last week the governor said he wouldn’t be lifting the mask mandate until more people in Hawaii are vaccinated. How many more people?

Answer: The state has not set a vaccination threshold for lifting Hawaii’s mask mandate or other COVID-19 restrictions, Gov. David Ige said Monday during Spotlight Hawaii, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s series hosted by Ryan Kalei Tsuji and Yunji de Nies.

Numerous readers have asked about this since Ige said Hawaii would not follow advice from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which says fully vaccinated people don’t need to wear face masks in many situations. Ige said it was impossible to know who is and isn’t vaccinated, and he wants more people vaccinated before lifting the state’s face mask rule.

Asked by de Nies whether he had a number in mind, Ige replied, “No, we don’t have an actual threshold yet, but we are talking about it and trying to determine what that threshold might be.”

If the state sets such a vaccination threshold, it must consider complete vaccination data to assess actual progress, other readers emphasized. They pointed to vaccination charts from the state Department of Health that don’t include people vaccinated through federal pharmacy programs for long-term care facilities and nursing homes or other federal agencies. We are following up with the DOH about this apparent discrepancy, which presumably could deflate reported vaccination rates in some instances. Spokespeople did not immediately respond Monday afternoon.

Q: What percentage of people 65 and over are vaccinated in the United States? It’s less useful to give the percentage for the whole population because children under age 12 aren’t even eligible for the vaccine yet, and COVID-19 generally has been a more serious illness for older people.

A: Nearly 85% of people 65 and older nationwide have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and nearly 73% of that population was fully vaccinated as of Monday, meaning it’s been at least two weeks since they had their second dose of a two-dose regimen, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Those figures are even higher in Hawaii, where nearly 95% of people 65 and up had received at least one dose by May 7, and 77% of that age group was fully vaccinated by that date, according to a State Profile Report prepared by a federal interagency team that includes the CDC.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses, while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires only one shot.

You can see CDC’s national vaccine tracker at and the State Profile Reports at

Q: How often does COVID-19 put people in the hospital?

A: Of the total 33,834 COVID-19 cases identified in Hawaii, about 7% required hospitalization, according to the state Department of Health. About 95% of total cases (not just hospitalizations) involved Hawaii residents, according to the DOH.


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Write to Kokua Line at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email

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