Maui Visitor Industry Prepares for Proof of Vaccination Requirements
Oʻahu is in its first week of the "Safe Access Oʻahu" program. Mandatory proof of vaccines at eateries and state offices launched Monday — and on Wednesday, Maui launches the similar "Safer Outside" program, though there will not be a COVID-19 testing option for patrons as there is on Oʻahu.
Rod Antone with the Maui Lodging and Tourism Association shared how companies are working to make sure they don't run afoul of the rules.
While Maui patrons do not have the option of presenting a negative test to dine indoors, employees can provide proof of a negative test every seven days. Unvaccinated patrons can be served outdoors or through take-out.
"Nobody wants to be in violation or to be penalized," Antone said. "I do know a lot of our members are planning to employ a rolling vaccination, testing schedule where you have a group of employees go out, get vaccinated, get tested. And then there's like some sort of rest period in case there's a reaction to the shots."
After Gov. David Ige announced at an Aug. 23 press conference that it was "not a good time" to travel to Hawaiʻi, Antone says there were 52,000 hotel room night cancellations in the weeks following.
"I'm hoping people realize that what we've been saying is true — the visitor industry has been working hard to follow the protocols that we set up last year to keep everybody tourists and the workers and our community safe," Antone told Hawaiʻi Public Radio. "And unfortunately, the community doesn't have those own safeguards for itself, which is why the state and county have been setting up these rules, which people are frustrated with. But it comes down to really, you know, in your own home where the government can't regulate you, people have got to regulate themselves."
He said lost revenue from cancellations is estimated at about $25 million.
"The few COVID clusters that have been coming from the hotel properties have been employee clusters, unfortunately. And it's because of exposures from outside of the property. They didn't get them from work," Antone said.
When asked what he wants to underscore for Hawaiʻi listeners, he said, "Get vaccinated."
"Someone asked me, 'Hey Rod, what do you really see? Is it the visitors or the residents that are responsible for this spread that we're having?' And I said, 'The unvaccinated, that's who's responsible.' It doesn't matter if you're visiting or if you live here, get vaccinated," Antone said.
Among Maui's guidelines, indoor social gatherings can have up to five people and outdoor social gatherings up to 10. Read Maui County's complete COVID-19 guidelines, beginning Sept. 15, below or click here.
This interview aired on The Conversation on Sept. 13, 2021.