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The Conversation: To Mask Or Not To Mask? Dr. Kathy Kozak Answers Your Questions

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AP Photo/Caleb Jones
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A woman wears a mask as she walks in Honolulu in 2020.

We are over a year into the coronavirus pandemic and face masks remain a common debate as COVID-19 vaccination rates are on the rise, locally and nationally. Host of The Body Show, Dr. Kathy Kozak joined us for a special call-in show to answer listener questions about mask wearing and the coronavirus in general.

Kozak is also an internal medicine doctor specializing in preventive healthcare, travel medicine, and women's health and wellness at Straub Medical Center. 

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that fully vaccinated adults can safely resume activities indoors or outdoors without masks or distancing, in gatherings large or small. 

The CDC said masks may still be required by state, local, tribal or territorial laws as well as businesses and workplaces. Unvaccinated people "remain at risk" of illness and death, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said, and should remain masked and observe physical distancing.

"What Dr. Walensky was doing, is responding to the science and it's changed. In the very beginning of the pandemic, people said everyone should wear these masks and a lot of people started to follow that," Kozak said. "But as time has gone on, we've seen that with the availability of vaccinations and with what we now understand about the coronavirus, the situation has changed and it may change again."

"It's not taking away somebody's personal decision if they choose to wear it. It's just allowing those people who are fully vaccinated to make a decision based on what the data and science say," Kozak said.

Governor David Ige said last week the state’s current mask mandate will remain in effect for everyone, including for those who are fully vaccinated. 

Under the current state emergency proclamation, masks are required in the state for indoor settings, but not while outside and physically distanced. Ige said 40% of the state’s population is fully vaccinated and there are challenges associated with lifting the mandate--most importantly, it is impossible to determine who is vaccinated and who is not, he said.

He said his administration is always reviewing CDC guidance and adjusting as the state progresses.

The Body Show airs at 6:30 p.m. on Mondays on HPR-1.

If you have any comments, questions or feedback, let us know by calling the Talkback Line at (808) 792-8217, or recording a voice memo on your smart phone and sending it to talkback@hawaiipublicradio.org.

Catherine Cruz is the Host of The Conversation and a member of HPR’s news team. She has been a television reporter in Hawai‘i since 1983 and has won a number of awards and respect from a statewide audience. She spent more than thirty years at KITV, covering beats from government to education and health. Originally from Guam, Cruz is also a co-founder and former Board member and programming chair of Pacific Islanders in Communication (PIC). Catherine is a graduate of San Francisco State University with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.
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