Honolulu Mayor Rick Blackgirdi said Wednesday that he might consider implementing a mask mandate after the Covid-19 case count rose for the eighth week in a row.

Hawaii recorded a weekly average of 925 cases per day on Wednesday, up from 722 the previous week. The state also reported 12 new deaths in the previous week.

The increase in cases comes weeks after the state and counties lifted mask mandates and other restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus, although schools still require masks to be worn.

Blangiardi said a decision to reimpose the mask mandate would depend on hospital capacity and recommendations by the state Department of Health.

“Anything remains a possibility while we’re still in this pandemic,” he said during an interview with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s “Spotlight” program. “A lot of it is going to depend on where these (trending) lines go.”

The number of people hospitalized with Covid rose to 126 on Wednesday, including five in the ICU and three on ventilators, according to the latest figures from the state. That number remains well below the peak of more than 400 per day during previous surges.

Mayor Rick Blangiardi announces at a press conference today that he is canceling large gatherings and is still allowing the gathering of 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors during a surge in Covid-19 cases. August 23, 2021
Mayor Rick Blangiardi said he would consider implementing a mask mandate if the Department of Health recommends it. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

DOH Spokesman Brooks Baehr said the department has not changed its guidance on masks since the mandate ended on March 25.

“At this point, we have not recommended to the governor or any of the mayors that we reinstitute a mask requirement,” Baehr said.

However, health officials have cautioned the public to wear masks indoors and avoid large crowds.

“If for some reason you absolutely have to be around other people in a crowd, make sure you’re wearing a well-fitted mask and that you wear it religiously,” Baehr said. “There are no real surprises here. You know how transmission happens. It happens when people are together.”

Masks have been recommended in indoor public spaces and transportation on Kauai, which is experiencing the highest positivity rate in the islands, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

On Wednesday, the Covid positivity rate on Kauai topped 23%, which remains higher than the statewide positivity rate of 16.9%, according to statewide figures. Officials have expressed concern about hospital capacity, which is more limited on the Garden Island.

More than 77% of the state’s population has been fully vaccinated. The vaccination rate is 81% in the City and County of Honolulu, 68% on Hawaii island, 71% on Maui and 72% on Kauai.

Kauai officials have announced no new plans to reimpose Covid restrictions, including the mask mandate, despite the CDC guidance.

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