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Big Island mayor calls for ‘mindful masking’ as COVID-19 case counts rise

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Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth today called on Hawaii island residents to practice “mindful masking” as COVID-19 cases surge across the state.

By “mindful masking,” Roth said in a news release that masking is strongly encouraged when in large gatherings, grocery stores, indoor gathering places, aboard public transportation, and in bars and restaurants when not actively eating and drinking.

Hawaii County has no mandate requiring the use of masks, although private property and business owners may make their own COVID-related rules.

“We are just asking our residents to continue to be mindful in their interactions with each other,” said Mayor Roth in a news release. “Although we have moved on to a time where we are learning to live with the virus, it is still very much a threat, and there are many individuals with health issues that make the virus a serious risk to their well-being. We don’t want to move back to a period of mandates to help control the spread. We’ve been there, done that, and we know what works at this point in the game. That’s why we are again calling on our community to keep each other safe and get us through the current surge — safely.”

Hawaii County still remains in the yellow, medium-risk community level while Kauai, Honolulu, and Maui counties last Thursday rose to the red, high-risk level, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Still, Hawaii County has reported more than 1,400 new cases over a 14-day period, the release said.

On Wednesday, the Hawaii Department of Health reported 850 new weekly cases in Hawaii County, a daily average that rose to 107, and average test positivity rate of 13.9%.

Under CDC guidelines, those living in high-risk communities should wear a well-fitting mask indoors in public and on public transportation, regardless of vaccination status.

The metrics for determining the community levels are based on hospital admission rates, number of inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, and case rates per 100,000 people.

Hawaii County said hospitalizations due to COVID on the island remain manageable, with a daily high of 16 hospitalizations over the past month compared to a daily high of 69 during the delta surge.

The island’s ICUs have limited capacity but are not overburdened with COVID patients yet, and only one COVID patient there is on a ventilator.

But residents should take a COVID test any time they are experiencing symptoms related to the coronavirus, a known contact of someone who tested positive, or returning from a trip, the county said.

Visit for more information on testing options around the island.

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