This is the One State That Still Has a Mask Mandate
As COVID-19 cases continue to drop nationwide, 49 out of 50 states had relaxed their indoor mask mandates as of this week. One state is the lone holdout. Read on to find out why—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
This State Is Keeping Its Mask Mandate
As of Sunday, Hawaii is the only state still requiring people to wear a face mask in public. On Friday, Gov. David Ige said that's because the policy has been successful in keeping the state's COVID death rate near the lowest in the country. "I am working with the Department of Health to determine when the time is right for Hawaii to lift the indoor mask mandate," he said in a statement to KITV 4 News. "Hawaii ranks second in the nation when it comes to COVID-deaths, in part because of the indoor mask requirement and other measures that have proven successful in protecting our community from this potentially deadly virus. We base our decisions on science, with the health and safety of our community as the top priority."
"We've Seen This Before"
In Hawaii, as in the rest of the country, the seven-day average of new COVID cases has declined significantly—90% in the state—from the Omicron wave's January peak. Hawaii's Department of Health spokesman, Brooks Baehr, said officials were trying to prevent a case of pandemic deja vu. "We saw Delta come and go in the fall. And now we're seeing Omicron came quickly and now it's disappearing fairly quickly," he told Honolulu Civil Beat. "We've seen this before."
Most Severe Cases in Elderly, Unvaccinated
Also reflecting the trends in the rest of the country: Almost everyone who died of COVID in Hawaii last week had an underlying health condition, and the vast majority were 70 years or older, state data shows. "Because (older patients with underlying conditions) are high risk, their risk of dying is probably a hundredfold higher than somebody who's healthy without an underlying condition," University of Hawaii epidemiologist Jim Davis told Honolulu Civil Beat. According to the Healthcare Association of Hawaii, 151 people were hospitalized with COVID in the state last Wednesday. Of those, 43% were unvaccinated, 38% were fully vaccinated, and only 19% had received a booster shot.
96% of U.S. Counties Still Reporting High Transmission
On Friday, the nation's average of new COVID cases had dropped to 121,000, down from more than 800,000 at the peak of the Omicron wave last month. But nearly 96% of counties in the U.S. are still reporting high transmission, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Several experts have expressed concerns that localities are rolling back restrictions too quickly, based more on pandemic fatigue than clear standards on levels of community transmission.
How to Stay Safe Out There
Follow the fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.