Hawaii: wearing a face mask shows aloha to others

Honolulu resident Cyrus Won always has a face mask on hand in case he needs to put it on, and he keeps a spare one in the glove compartment of his car.

For Won, a retiree, wearing a face mask during a pandemic is one way to show aloha. It is no longer about handshakes, hugs or kisses, but about wearing a mask.

“This is Hawaii,” he said. “If you have aloha and show aloha for others, then you wear a mask.”

In a recent letter to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Won wrote that masks are used to protect others and that people who refuse to wear them pose a risk to others. It’s about thinking beyond yourself, she said. Being over 60, he is careful when he is away from home, but he has seen others blatantly ignore the rules.

Governor David Ige, along with Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, ordered the use of non-medical face masks when he visited essential businesses in April to help stop the spread of the new coronavirus. In Honolulu, masks are required to visit a business, as well as to shop and travel on the bus, with a few exceptions. Masks are not required for outdoor exercise. Hawaiian Airlines requires passengers to wear masks for the duration of a flight.

Scientific studies have shown that face masks are effective in helping to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, according to Dr. Darragh O’Carroll, who was at the Caldwell press conference to explain how it works physiologically.

O’Carroll said that COVID-19 is a disease of the upper respiratory tract, and that the virus is transmitted and multiplies in the respiratory tract, including the nasal cavity, and travels to the lungs. When people talk, laugh, or cough, these aerosolized droplets and virus particles are blown out of their mouths.

“Even when you are talking, these drops can be transferred to the environment to someone you are talking to,” he said. “One way to combat this is to wear a mask so that those drops and aerosol particles don’t spread around you.”

Masks make the difference

A recent study by the National Academy of Sciences compared the role of mandatory facial linings in three epicenters of the pandemic: Wuhan, China; Italy; and New York City, and they found it made a difference.

The researchers said in their analysis that face masks made a difference for these three epicenters and significantly reduced the number of infections: more than 78,000 in Italy from April 6 to May 9 and more than 66,000 in New York City from 17 April to May 9.

“Other mitigation measures, such as social distancing implemented in the United States, are insufficient by themselves,” the researchers said in their summary. “We conclude that wearing face masks in public corresponds to the most effective means of preventing interhuman transmission, and this economic practice, along with simultaneous social distancing, quarantine, and contact tracing, represents the most likely opportunity to fight for stop the COVID-19 pandemic. “

O’Carroll said that, unlike the 2003 SARS epidemic, the new coronavirus has spread to many people who remain asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic. With SARS, people with symptoms could easily identify themselves for isolation. With the new coronavirus, the number of people without symptoms, about 30%, according to the Centers for Disease Control, presents a challenge.

At the same time, with President Donald Trump refusing to wear a face mask, the decision to wear one has turned into political football in the US, inciting protests in some states and prompting the resignation of an official from county health.

Hawaii, despite leaders accepting the facial mask mandate, is not completely immune to the controversy that divides the nation.

Tina Yamaki, president of Retail Merchants of Hawaii, said there have been clashes, as well as threats, at local stores.

“It has happened here,” he said. “It is not the majority. It is just a handful of people. It’s the handful that makes it worse for most. “

Retailers are in an awkward position to enforce the mandate to wear masks within their businesses.

The problem is often not that customers walk in without a face mask, but rather that it starts to slip or hang from one ear somewhere within the store, he said. Some are offended when politely asked to put on the mask. Many say their masks slipped, and retailers have heard all kinds of excuses.

“It is not about you,” he said. “It is about protecting other people, the Kupuna, our children, the workers and other people in the community who may be affected.”

O’Carroll said that to be effective, the face mask must cover both the nose and mouth, under the chin, and fit snugly against the side of the face.

In addition to preventing the spread of the drops, the mask, depending on the quality and quantity of layers and other environmental factors, can also help protect the person using it.

“It is as much the protection of oneself as the protection of others,” said Victoria Fan, an assistant professor of health policy at the University of Hawaii. “It confers both benefits.”

Fan said wearing a face mask is “one of the three or four most important things you can do” to prevent the spread of the virus, and that government leaders should repeat these four things: wear a face mask, wash your hands, keep your distance. physical and comply with quarantine measures, over and over again.

Inconsistent message

The CDC sent an inconsistent message by not recommending the use of face masks initially, possibly in an effort to salvage the N95, medical-grade masks for healthcare workers facing a shortage. Then the CDC reversed the directions and said that people should wear a mask.

This created confusion, according to Fan, who said consistent messaging is key, along with supply and accessibility.

“Repetition is one of the most important psychological tools we have to convince people to do things,” he said.

For anyone in an enclosed or crowded space, wearing a face mask is important, he said, but if others don’t wear one and are spreading the virus, the general circulation of COVID-19 is greater. There has to be an “acceptance” by the public.

“We are all thinking about a vaccine, but before a vaccine, what protection do we have?” she said. “Well, wearing a face mask does have protective effects. If we convince people why we should use it, I think we have a better chance. “

People just seem to be letting their guard down and forgetting, said Charlotte Yee, a Hawaii Kai resident, who adopted the mask wearing it early, calling it “the new courtesy.”

While people wondered where to get a face mask when the term expired, the options are now plentiful. Numerous retailers sell masks in a variety of patterns, prints, and designs, from Old Navy to Manuheali’i.

Won, the retiree who said masks are a way to show aloha, ordered an online facial mask with a smiling face, which has been a success, he said.

As soon as Jams World came out with a mask and filter, Tracy Larrua of Kaneohe ordered one, and now he has at least a dozen of various styles. She keeps some in her bag and several in her car.

It is becoming increasingly common to see face masks on dashboards or hanging from the rear view mirrors of cars around the island.

“I have autoimmune problems and I take care of my mother too, so I need to make sure that I am protected,” said Larrua, who has lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. “When I see others wearing a mask, I appreciate it because they keep me and my mother safe.”

Fortunately, so far he has had no problems with the mask theme.

“I think it is definitely something that is so easy to do, and anyone can do it,” Larrua said. “You just have to do it instead of feeling like it’s taking too long or a hassle. He really is thoughtful about another person’s life. “


>> All essential business customers and visitors must wear non-medical grade facial covers over their noses and mouths, as well as all passengers of TheBus and TheHandi-Van.

>> Essential business owners can refuse admission / service to anyone who does not wear face covers.

>> Exemptions: banks and financial institutions; children under 5 years; those with medical conditions or disabilities; first responders if this impedes the performance of their duties.

* Effective April 20, 2020