A mandatory mask policy sign at the entrance to a retail store in Oregon during the coronavirus pandemic. Image by Tada Images/Shutterstock. United States, 2020.

This letter features reporting from “Why Every State Should Adopt a Mask Mandate, in 4 Charts” by Lois Parshley and Youyou Zhou

Dear Representative Yamashita,

Hello! My name is Kaitlin Kitagawa and I am a sophomore at King Kekaulike High School. I would like to talk to you about the issues regarding the mask mandate in Hawaii. Recently, I read the article, “Why Every State Should Adopt a Mask Mandate, in 4 Charts” by Lois Parshley and Youyou Zhou on the Pulitzer Center website. This article addressed the current situation with the mask mandate in other parts of the world, and used supporting facts to explain why states should issue a mask mandate.

Throughout the world, people are battling the deadly COVID-19 pandemic. One way scientists found to help prevent the spread of the virus is masks. According to the news story, “In Singapore, for instance, around 95 percent of people wear masks, and they have one of the world’s lowest coronavirus death rates.” However, some states, such as North Dakota, do not have a mask mandate and are facing the consequences. According to the Pulitzer Center article, as of November 2, 2020, North Dakota “had the lowest mask-wearing rate in the country," and "also had 146 coronavirus cases per 100,000...the highest per capita rate of any state in the county.”

Thankfully, in March 2020, Hawaii’s Governor Ige issued a statewide emergency proclamation that put into effect several laws to battle COVID, such as a mask mandate and restrictions on traveling to the State or inter-island. These laws were effective in slowing down our COVID infection rate, but not all of Hawaii’s counties are reaching the goal of 80% of the population wearing masks recommended by experts. This is a problem that personally affects me and my community because according to the Maui News, the island I live on, Maui, has the lowest number of people wearing masks in the state, with a 72% rate of mask users, compared to 88% on Oahu and 74% on Kauai. Since not everyone is wearing masks, we risk the chance that Maui’s numbers will rise again, endangering our community. 

I have been reading about possible solutions to increase mask usage, and ask you to consider the following: 1) Continue to have county and state leaders like yourself publicly advocate and urge mask usage on their islands; 2) Urge Governor Ige and the legislature to consider passing a specific law that solely addresses the mask mandate, and make violations of the mandate a non-criminal offense. Currently, the mask mandate law is part of an overall public emergency proclamation, which includes other rules. Violating any part of the emergency proclamation is a criminal misdemeanor, which means people may have to go to trial. This is costly for the state and the violator, and clogs up our courts. Instead, we should make the violation of the mask mandate a non-criminal offense where people can opt to pay a large fine instead of going to court. A large fine, such as $100-$500, would be a major deterrent for those who do not want to wear a mask. I ask you to consider advocating for these two solutions to increase mask compliance on our island and State. Thank you for your time and consideration of this important matter. 


Kaitlin Kitagawa

Kaitlin Kitagawa is a sophomore at King Kekaulike High School on the island of Maui, Hawaii. She has a passion for math and science, and is an active member of her school’s STEM, Interact, and Tri-M honor society clubs. Kaitlin’s hobbies include playing the trumpet and piano as a member of her school jazz, pep, and concert bands, as well as the local Maui Community Band. Her personal motto is inspired by Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

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