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Governor: Hawaiʻi State, County Workers Must Be Vaccinated or Take Weekly Tests

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State and county workers must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 starting Aug. 16, Gov. David Ige announced Thursday. Those who are unvaccinated will have to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing.

Ige announced the new requirements and signed another emergency proclamation, citing the increased hospitalization rates and COVID-19 cases — a record-high 655 cases were reported Thursday by the state Department of Health.

For unvaccinated workers who cannot logically complete the two-dose vaccines — Pfizer or Moderna — by Aug. 16, the governor said they would need to initiate their vaccination, submit to weekly testing and then provide proof of vaccination.

The vaccine mandate follows similar announcements from the state House of Representatives, several major Hawaiʻi hospital systems, and the state Department of Education regarding student-athletes.

Hawaiʻi's six public employee unions, which represent thousands of workers, released a joint statement claiming they "reached out to the governor’s office earlier this week to initiate discussions about the vaccine mandate, but (their) request was denied." They said they will "continue to fight for open discussions" about the vaccine mandate.

The Hawaii Fire Fighters Association, the Hawaii Government Employees Association, the Hawaiʻi State Teachers Association, the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers, the University of Hawaiʻi Professional Assembly, and the United Public Workers said they "strongly encourage COVID-19 vaccinations."

"The emergency proclamation will impact our members’ working conditions and the employer must bargain those impacts with the appropriate collective bargaining units. Details on how tests will be administered, how results will be kept confidential, and how the state will fund this mandate will need to be negotiated with the state and we look forward to having those discussions right away," the unions said in a news release.

Out of the whole population, including children who are not eligible, 60.5% of residents are fully vaccinated and 67.6% have received at least one shot, according to the latest state data.

Ige did not extend the state’s eviction moratorium, which ends Friday night.

Other suspensions and programs initiated during the pandemic will continue, he said. Boards and commissions will continue to hold meetings remotely. Driver’s licenses and IDs that have expired during the emergency period will have additional time to be renewed.

The state’s travel quarantine and Safe Travels program will remain in effect, with exemptions for vaccinated travelers and those with proof of negative COVID-19 tests.

The indoor mask mandate will continue, and he strongly urged people to wear masks when in large gatherings outside.

The suspension for certain healthcare licenses will continue in order to meet staffing requirements at medical facilities, Ige said.

Speaking to HPR's The Conversation on Wednesday, Ige said, "The hospitals and the facilities all across the state are implementing surge planning, looking at what they can do to increase capacity of intensive care units."

"The biggest challenge at this point in time is the staffing issue," he added. "We can convert an acute care bed into an ICU by adding equipment and other kinds of things, but the staffing required is a lot more intensive. And many of the hospitals would need assistance in getting the staff necessary to be able to handle more cases."

Gov. David Ige - Aug. 4, 2021
HPR's The Conversation

Updated: August 5, 2021 at 4:07 PM HST
Updated with a joint response from Hawaiʻi's six public unions.
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