People visiting essential businesses and those riding mass transit on Oahu will be required to wear a facial covering starting next week, Mayor Kirk Caldwell said on Tuesday.

At grocery stores, pharmacies, take-out restaurants and other open businesses, people will need to wear a mask, scarf, bandana, or other facial covering. The goal is to prevent further spread of the coronavirus.

Not doing so will amount to a misdemeanor, but the mayor said he hopes no real enforcement will be necessary.

“It’s another layer of protection,” Caldwell said. “If there’s interaction with the public, they need to wear masks.”

Mayor Kirk Caldwell says the mask requirement can slow the spread of the coronavirus. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

People with asthma or other pulmonary illnesses are exempt from the order because wearing a mask could make it hard to breathe, Caldwell said. The order also doesn’t apply to visits to financial institutions, including banks and ATMs, to avoid the appearance of robberies, he said.

Wearing a mask while driving one’s car is not necessary unless the driver is interacting with someone, such as when picking up food, Caldwell said. The rule applies to city buses and the Handi-Van.

“People in the medical profession continue to ride the bus to go to and from work, 24/7,” he said. “When you’re on the bus, under this mandated order, you must wear a mask.”

The mayor announced his order as Hawaii hit 517 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 358 of which are on Oahu. Nine people are confirmed to have died from the coronavirus.

The city is encouraging those who need masks and don’t have them to visit to request one.

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