Gov. David Ige issued a statewide mask mandate on Monday, following criticism that existing rules — which were set by individual counties — were confusing.

Ige’s latest emergency proclamation requires everyone in the state to “wear a face covering over their nose and mouth in public,” but outlines new exemptions for people with medical conditions and children younger than 5 years old. The prior mask mandate in an older proclamation did not include this sort of specific language and deferred to county mask rules.

“We all agreed it’s important to have a single message and consistent exceptions,” Ige said during a Facebook Live interview with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Monday.

Governor David Ige nominates Judge Eddins to the Hawaii Supreme Court.
Gov. David Ige updated Hawaii’s mandate on Monday, which now includes exceptions for children under 5. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

Businesses are supposed to refuse entrance to patrons who do not wear face masks indoors. People still don’t have to wear face masks outdoors if keeping 6 feet away from people outside their household is possible.

No change was made to the current penalty for violating the mask order, which is a misdemeanor with a possible fine of $5,000 or a year in jail, or both.

“It can go on one’s criminal record and can impact employment for many years to come unless they’re cleared and their records are expunged,” Ige said in the Facebook Live interview.

New Mask Order

Lt. Gov. Josh Green, lawmakers and tourism officials had called for a clear statewide mask mandate and more enforcement.

Some local leaders, including Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, have supported the move and called for the penalty for not wearing a mask to be changed to a simple fine, rather than a criminal misdemeanor.

Caldwell has suggested imposing a $100 fine, according to a report by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Honolulu officials plan to provide $1.8 million in Oahu’s federal coronavirus relief money to the state judiciary to cover costs associated with processing coronavirus related citations.

Hawaii House Speaker Scott Saiki said it would benefit the state to impose tickets that could be paid by mail.

“The current penalty is a misdemeanor offense that would trigger a jury trial because they couldn’t possibly impose jail time,” Saiki said. “The fine for violation of the mask order should be an administrative fine that is easier to impose and collect.”

Saiki said he appreciated the amendment to the proclamation, which makes the rules more clear and comprehensible. But there will still be confusion, especially outdoors, if masks are still not required if people maintain a 6-foot distance, he said.

“Enforcement will be key at this point, especially for the exception that applies for people outdoors,” Saiki said. “That is the Waikiki problem, where non-resident tourists are not wearing masks, even though they are within 6 feet of others. That’s where enforcement needs to be ramped up.”

Ige said he is considering a new framework for imposing fines during the interview with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, but that would require a special session of the Legislature, a process that would be too slow, he said.

“I’m looking at instituting a new fine system (which) is complex,” he said. “There will be lots of discussions that need to happen to determine appropriate penalties. I don’t think it’s conducive to doing it in a special session when time is of the essence.”

According to the Hawaii Department of Health and the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, about 86% of people in Hawaii comply with mask rules.

In an August presentation to the Hawaii Economics Association, University of Hawaii Economist Sumner La Croix suggested a $150 to $200 fine may be more effective if it is “widely applied to violators and treated like a parking ticket.”

Nearly all coronavirus-related citations filed by Honolulu police on Oahu have ultimately been dismissed, KITV reported.

Civil Beat reporter Christina Jedra contributed to this story.

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