Outdoor masking to be optional at HIDOE schools starting March 9

The Hawaiʻi State Department of Education will be updating its COVID-19 safety protocols to make outdoor masking at public school campuses and HIDOE facilities optional for students, faculty and staff, effective March 9, 2022. Indoor masking will continue to be required.

The Department has required masking both indoors and outdoors as an added protection since the start of the school year. The updated guidance takes into consideration the latest recommendations from the Hawaiʻi State Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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

“I want to thank our students, staff and families for being diligent with mask-wearing throughout this pandemic. That diligence helped get us to this point where we can start to ease restrictions in a safe manner,” Hayashi added. “While outdoor masking will be optional, indoor masking will continue to be required.”

The CDC’s latest guidance for K-12 schools recommends outdoor masking not be required when community levels are low to moderate. All counties in Hawaiʻi are currently designated as “low.” The CDC looks at a combination of three metrics to determine the COVID-19 community level: new COVID-19 admissions per 100,000 population in the past seven days, the percent of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, and total new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population in the past seven days.

A memorandum was issued from interim Superintendent Hayashi to school leaders today. The HIDOE’s health and safety guidance for schools is being revised. Updates will continue to be made based on the latest data and information from national and local health authorities.

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