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Hawaiʻi Department of Education Delays Fall Sports Season, Requires COVID-19 Vaccines for All Involved

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All public school student-athletes must be vaccinated against COVID-19 to play sports in the upcoming school year, the Hawaiʻi State Department of Education announced Wednesday.

Due to the steep increase of COVID-19 cases, the fall season will be delayed until all student-athletes and adults working in athletics are vaccinated, the department said.

They will need to be fully vaccinated by Sept. 24 to participate in school-sanctioned athletic activities for the 2021-2022 school year. The season is delayed until that date to allow those affected by the policy to get vaccinated.

“This decision was not made lightly because we know the important role athletics play in a well-rounded education, but we cannot jeopardize the health and safety of our students and communities," interim Superintendent Keith Hayashi said. "We saw over the weekend the impact that just one potential case can have on sports teams, students and families."

"The alternative is canceling the season outright, which we don’t want to have to do," he said.

Fully vaccinated is defined as two weeks after the second dose in a two-dose series like the Pfizer vaccine, "which has emergency use authorization for adolescents 12 and older and requires two shots 21 days apart," the news release said.

Those who get an initial vaccine dose by Aug. 20 can be fully vaccinated by the Sept. 24 deadline, the department said.

Students and adults may seek an exemption from the vaccine requirement for religious or medical reasons with documentation. However, they will need to submit to a PCR exam twice a week.

At the University of Hawaiʻi, all student-athletes must be vaccinated or have a medical or religious exemption, UH Mānoa Athletics Department spokesperson Derek Inouchi said. All university coaches and staff must also be vaccinated.

"We have not defined a hard deadline for vaccinations for student-athletes however those who are not vaccinated must start the process and are still subject to weekly testing until fully vaccinated," Inouchi told Hawaiʻi Public Radio.

The state continues to hover at just over 60% fully vaccinated. Honolulu County has the highest vaccination rate at 62% while Maui County has the lowest at 54%.

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