Big Island mayor calls for ‘mindful masking’ as COVID-19 case count rises

Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth today urged residents of the island of Hawaii to practice “mindful masking” as COVID-19 cases surge across the state.

Through “mindful masking,” Roth said in a press release that masking is strongly recommended in large gatherings, grocery stores, indoor gathering places, onboard public transit, and in bars and restaurants when not actively eating and drinking.

Hawaii County does not have a mandate requiring mask use, although private property and business owners can make their own COVID-related rules.

“We’re just asking our residents to continue to be mindful when dealing with one another,” Mayor Roth said in a press release. “Although we have transitioned to a time where we are learning to live with the virus, it still poses a major threat and there are many people with health conditions that make the virus a serious threat to their well-being. We don’t want to go back to a period of mandates to help control the spread. We’ve been there, done that, and we know what’s working at this point in the game. That is why we are calling again on our community to protect each other and get us through the current surge – safely.”

Hawaii County still remains in the yellow intermediate-risk community tier, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while counties of Kauai, Honolulu and Maui climbed to the red high-risk tier last Thursday.

Still, Hawaii County reported more than 1,400 new cases over a 14-day period, the release said.

On Wednesday, the Hawaii Department of Health reported 850 new weekly cases in Hawaii County, a daily average rising to 107, and an average test positivity rate of 13.9%.

According to CDC guidelines, people living in high-risk communities should wear a well-fitting mask in public and on public transportation, regardless of vaccination status.

The metrics used to determine community levels are based on hospital admission rates, the number of inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, and case rates per 100,000 population.

According to Hawaii County, hospitalizations due to COVID remain manageable on the island, with a daily peak of 16 hospitalizations over the past month compared to a daily peak of 69 during the delta rise.

The island’s intensive care units have limited capacity but are not yet overwhelmed with COVID patients, and only one COVID patient there is on ventilators.

However, residents should take a COVID test any time they have symptoms related to the coronavirus, a known contact of a person who has tested positive, or returning from a trip, the county said.

Visit for more information on testing opportunities across the island.

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