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State Launches Digital Vaccine 'Health Card' Ahead of COVID-Free Requirement at Many Businesses

Gov. Ige discusses Hawaii SMART Health Card rollout set for Sept. 10, 2021.
Governor David Ige
Gov. Ige discusses Hawaii SMART Health Card rollout set for Sept. 10, 2021.

Shortly before patrons on Oʻahu and Maui will have to present COVID-19 vaccine cards to enter many businesses, the state is unveiling a new digital vaccine card system.

The Hawaii Smart Health Card will allow people to use their smartphones to prove they have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

State officials say that starting Friday, people who have been vaccinated in Hawaiʻi will be able to upload a photo of their vaccination card to the Safe Travels Hawaii website to create a digital vaccination record. The website will crosscheck this information with data stored in the state’s vaccination database.

Gov. David Ige said it aims to make it easier and more convenient for residents to present proof of vaccination to businesses that require it.

"Participation in the SMART Health Card program is purely voluntary," he said. "The digital health card supports counties that require proof of vaccination at certain businesses and venues."

Businesses will have the option to use a validator app to scan a QR code on the digital vaccination records to verify their legitimacy. The Hawaii SMART Health Card QR code cannot be used for travel purposes.

"SMART Health cards are growing as a standard to show proof of vaccination across the nation," said Doug Murdock, chief information officer of the state's Office of Enterprise Technology. "Hawaiʻi joins states such as New York, California and Louisiana, in implementing an application that allows people to share their vaccine status to businesses and venues in a safe and secure way."

Murdock said vaccinated residents will receive a state-issued QR code, which can be stored on their phone using Samsung Pay, or the health app on Android or Apple devices.

Nonresidents and residents can still present a physical or photocopy of their government-issued vaccination card. People who have been vaccinated through the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs or through the federal pharmacy program won’t be able to have their cards verified through the website.

Starting Monday, the City and County of Honolulu will require patrons of restaurants, bars, museums, theaters and other establishments to show proof of vaccination or a negative test for COVID-19 taken within the previous 48 hours.

Maui County will start a similar program on Wednesday, though patrons won’t have the option to show a negative test. Unvaccinated diners may dine outside or order take-out.

Amy Asselbaye - Sept. 8, 2021
The director of Honolulu's Office of Economic Revitalization on The Conversation

Amy Asselbaye, head of Honolulu's Office of Economic Revitalization, walked through what you need to know about the new requirements for Honolulu patrons and businesses.

"We have 60 days kind of for this pilot to see how it works: if it helps increase vaccination, if it helps lower the spread of COVID-19 —that is certainly the intention," Asselbaye told HPR's The Conversation.

"This order would be complaint-based enforcement. So if you went to a bar, restaurant, fitness facility, museum or theater, and they weren't enforcing this order, we would have to receive the information, and depending on the type of establishment, either the Honolulu Police Department or liquor commission could fine, or in the case of the liquor commission, they could close down a business if there were repeated violations of the order," she said.

More information about the Hawaii Smart Health Card can be found by clicking here. Starting Friday, residents can upload their vaccine cards to travel.hawaii.gov.

Casey Harlow was an HPR reporter and occasionally filled in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
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