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Operator of TheBus, TheHandi-Van pauses its employee COVID-19 vaccine mandate

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Oʻahu Transit Services, which operates The Bus and TheHandi-Van, quietly put its employee COVID-19 vaccine mandate on pause last month.

Human Resources Director Tamara Addison said Monday the agency was waiting for the Biden administration to publish its new guidelines on vaccine requirements.

The administration published new federal rules Thursday that require employers with 100 or more employees to ensure that their workers are either fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Jan. 4 or that they test negative for COVID-19 at least once a week.

"Yeah, basically waiting until we get the final decision. In the meantime, it was going to allow us time to review all of the exemption requests. So we had over 170, and about 112 or so have already been approved and we need about 50 more that need documentation," she said, prior to the federal announcement. "134 were for religion, 18 medical, and then 20 applied for both religious and medical."

The original vaccination deadline for TheBus and TheHandi-Van operators was Sept. 15. It was then pushed off to Oct. 1 if the union was able to get 90% of its members to respond to a vaccine survey.

OTS said it has just shy of 1,000 drivers and close to 88% of them are vaccinated. The agency also said it is not conducting routine COVID-19 testing for its drivers.

There were six COVID-19 cases among drivers in the month of October, 15 in September, and 38 in August, she said.

This interview aired on The Conversation on Nov. 1, 2021.

Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at ccruz@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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