Gov. David Ige said that he plans to issue another emergency proclamation related to Covid-19 this week that may loosen restrictions across the state.

“We recognize we need to relax restrictions,” Ige said during an interview on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s “Spotlight Hawaii” program Monday.

But what restrictions could be lifted is still undetermined.

Governor David Ige announces the new Hawaii Smart Health Card that will go live on friday.
Gov. David Ige and the county mayors plan to announce relaxed pandemic rules this week. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

Ige said he and the four county mayors are still discussing what should be in the new emergency order and didn’t offer many details during the Star-Advertiser’s interview.

The governor and mayors plan to announce any changes before Thanksgiving Day, Ige said.

The current extension of an emergency proclamation that Ige first issued in March 2020 is set to expire Nov. 30. New emergency orders would go into effect Dec. 1 and stay in place well into January.

Ige still plans to keep in place indoor mask mandates for at least the duration of the next emergency proclamation.

“I think it’s the one thing we will continue to have in place going forward,” Ige said.

Hawaii is one of a minority of states that still has a mask mandate. Seven states, including Hawaii and the District of Columbia, require masks in most indoor settings for vaccinated and unvaccinated people, according to NBC’s compilation of mask rules.

Still, there’s evidence to suggest that mask mandates are effective at controlling the virus, and public health experts have urged the continued use of masks through the holidays, the New York Times reported.

Ige said he talked to governors from other states who told him that they regret dropping the mask mandates.

He also plans to keep the Safe Travels program in place as long as there is virus activity in other states. The governor also floated the idea of repurposing Safe Travels to help with tourism management.

“We are looking at, is there a long term purpose for Safe Travels? And how we might migrate and implement changes?” Ige said.

For example, the state is considering using Safe Travels to replace the agriculture declaration forms inbound airline passengers need to fill out before landing.

There have also been discussions of using Safe Travels as a reservation system for people to schedule visits to tourist attractions. The end goal would be to better manage the flow of tourists and visitors through neighborhoods and highways.

Hawaii has spent more than 600 days under emergency orders, a length of time even the governor said is unprecedented. He has faced calls from medical professionals and lawmakers to ease up on restrictions.

But Ige said he needs the flexibility to suspend laws or take action during a pandemic.

He defended his decisions to extend emergency orders the last two years and said dealing with the pandemic is far different from other natural disasters that end in several days or weeks.

“This is definitely an unusual circumstance,” Ige said. “I can’t remember an emergency proclamation that lasted more than a year and a half to two years now.”

Last legislative session, lawmakers tried to limit Ige’s emergency powers by giving the Legislature the authority to approve any extensions of emergency proclamations. That measure, House Bill 103, was killed on the last day of the session.

Ige said he would again oppose any bills that seek to limit his emergency powers and urged lawmakers to “not overreach and tie the hands of the executive.”

The administration “will discourage any action to limit a governor or mayor’s ability to keep our community safe,” Ige said.

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