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Stay distanced to avoid a mask at beach, county says

County mask rules will be updated to align with state orders

Maui sunbathers may get a more even face tan, thanks to Gov. David Ige’s recent statewide proclamation that allows for certain mask exemptions.

Ige on Monday signed his 15th emergency proclamation that clarified mask-wearing is “mandatory” in public on every island, with a handful of exceptions. One exception is “while outdoors when physical distance of 6 feet can be maintained at all times.”

Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino confirmed Wednesday that masks are no longer required at beaches if physical distancing is maintained.

“Maui News, thank you for the trick question — you guys try it all the time and I got it,” Victorino said during the county’s afternoon news conference. “What we’re saying is if you can physically distance and not cross paths and not join together, yes, you can go without a mask.”

He added that the situation doesn’t happen very often.

“When you’re walking on the beach and you’re walking by another group you’re no longer six feet apart,” Victorino said. “I would say the best way to be safe is wearing a mask as much as possible.”

During a Nov. 2 news conference, county Managing Director Sandy Baz said the beach question comes up often. He said masks must be worn while sedentary on the beach or at a pool.

“If you’re laying on a beach, getting a tan, unfortunately you’ll get a nice tan across the middle of your face,” he said. “You won’t need to put sunblock there, just around your eyes.”

Meanwhile, questions remain over inconsistencies between the state and county rules regarding mask-wearing. Certain exemptions may be granted on the county level, but those same exemptions are not addressed in state rules.

County spokesman Brian Perry on Wednesday said counties statewide are updating individual rules to align with the governor’s proclamation.

He added that he did not have a timeline for the updates.

Baz on Wednesday talked about the statewide mask clarifications, which makes clear that mask-wearing for people ages 5 and older is “mandatory” in public, on every island, and sets new statewide rules for hotels and other businesses.

Violations are a misdemeanor with the possibility for fines of up to $5,000 or one year in jail.

Baz said counties are working on amending the fine system, so penalties are similar to a traffic ticket.

“We are working with the state legislature, beginning in the new session in January, to create a different model so it’s more like a traffic ticket that you would just pay a fine for versus having to go to court and deal with that,” Baz said. “We don’t want to burden our court system more, but we do want everyone to wear a mask.”

Victorino urged mask wearing ahead of the holidays and possible gatherings, saying that masks are “the only vaccine at this time.”

He said there may be an uptick in Maui COVID-19 numbers today due to clusters, with cases that are not all travel-related.

“There are still clusters within our community,” Victorino said. “I would rather not go into details until they are confirmed but it shows we need to be vigilant.”

Other exceptions to the governor’s mask rules include the following:

• Those with medical conditions or disabilities who face a health or safety risk by wearing a mask.

• Children under age 5.

• While working at a desk or work station and not actively engaged with other employees, customers or visitors, provided that the individual’s desk or work station is not located in a common or shared area and physical distancing of at least 6 feet is maintained.

• While eating, drinking, smoking as permitted by applicable law.

• Inside private automobiles, provided the only occupants are members of the same household/living unit/residence.

• While receiving services allowed under a state or county order, rule or proclamation, that require access to that individual’s nose or mouth.

• When security concerns, such as in financial institutions, prohibit face coverings.

• While outdoors when physical distance of 6 feet can be maintained at all times.

In other matters, Victorino responded Wednesday at the news conference to the Maui County Council unanimous vote last week to approve a resolution urging the mayor to establish a rapid-response COVID-19 task force. Pointing to the county’s responses to outbreaks on Lanai and Molokai, Victorino said many groups planning and implementing strategies, along with conducting emergency responses, are already active and in place.

He listed names and groups assisting since the onset of the pandemic and said he has been informing the council on pertinent issues.

“We do have many of those same groups that you’re referring to that have been actively participating with our team in helping us with policies, with responses, and most importantly making sure the people of Maui County have been taken care of,” Victorino said.

* Kehaulani Cerizo can be reached at kcerizo@mauinews.com.

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