Hawaii public school students and staff will no longer need to wear masks outdoors starting Wednesday, the state Department of Education announced.

This change comes as Hawaii sees its infection numbers plummet to pre-omicron levels and states across the U.S. move to end both indoor and outdoor masking in their schools.

The DOE’s decision was informed by guidance from the state Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, interim superintendent Keith Hayashi said in a Tuesday press release.

“It’s encouraging to see our indicators trending in the right direction to allow us to make this change,” Hayashi said. “We’re seeing COVID case counts at our public schools continue to decline for the seventh-straight week and weekly rates are down 98 percent from January’s omicron surge peak.”

The DOE has required indoor and outdoor masking on campus as an “added protection” since the start of the school year last August, despite Ige lifting a similar statewide outdoor mask mandate in May.

However, conflicting recommendations from the DOH, which advise that masking be optional outdoors on campus, have sparked confusion in recent months, with a recent petition protesting outdoor masking at Mokapu Elementary School in Kailua asserting that outdoor masking rules were the principal’s decision.

Masking is still mandated indoors for students and staff, the DOE emphasized. Gov. David Ige is scheduled to give an update on the state’s indoor mask mandate Tuesday.

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