Hawai‘i State & County Employees Must Provide Proof of Vaccination, or Undergo Regular COVID-19 Testing
Governor David Ige today issued a 22nd emergency proclamation related to COVID-19 in Hawaiʻi that effectively requires all state and county employees to provide their vaccination status to their department, office or agency. If they cannot provide proof of vaccination by Aug. 16, they will be subject to regular COVID-19 testing.
“Based on the current conditions, I must take action to protect public health and avert unmanageable strains on our health care all across the state,” Gov. Ige said during a press briefing on Thursday afternoon, noting that if a free testing site is not used, employees must pay for any testing costs. In addition, they may be subject to travel restrictions moving forward.
“As a reminder, state employees have been granted administrative leave to get vaccinated during work hours. The mayors and I agree that this new vaccination and testing policy for state and county workers will help to protect the health, safety and welfare of the people of Hawai‘i,” said Gov. Ige.
Today Marks Highest Single Day COVID-19 Count in Hawaiʻi
“A few months ago, we were proceeding and progressing very well in our fight against COVID-19. Vaccination rates were very high here in Hawaiʻi and going strong. The number of COVID-19 cases were shrinking as our entire community responded to the actions needed in order to slow COVID-19 here in Hawaiʻi,” said Gov. Ige.
Since then, the governor said, much has changed. “Today, the number of cases and hospitalizations are all trending up dramatically. The highly contagious Delta variant creates a big risk of infection, especially for members of our community who are not vaccinated,” he said.
Hawaiʻi Department of Health director Dr. Elizabeth Char concurred, saying the number of people with COVID-19 infections has increased dramatically in the past few weeks. “Today we report 655 people newly infected with COVID. This is the highest single day count since the beginning of the pandemic. We’re seeing widespread community transmission, along with clusters in groups of people who are unvaccinated, and we’re seeing infects in people who have been in close contact, often indoors, without wearing masks.”
“This alarming rise in cases will not end on its own. Our hospitals are concerned about their capacity and especially their staffing. The return to normalcy that we were all fighting so hard to attain is now in jeopardy. The good news,” said Dr. Char is “we know what works. We have the tools that we need to slow the spread of COVID. This will require a whole-of-government response and participation by the entire community. All of us need to do our part,” she said, encouraging the public to wear their masks, stay home if sick, avoid gathering and get vaccinated.
“We will get through this and we will do it together if we all do our part,” said Dr. Char.
Officials Discuss Return to In-Person Learning
“We have seen all across the country that schools have been able to reopen for in-person learning in a safe and health way,” said Gov. Ige.
“The actual number of clusters or outbreaks that have occurred in the school setting has been limited here specifically in the state of Hawaiʻi; and as you look at the experience across the country, it’s been very limited. The sense is that (1) we do know that our children benefit greatly from in-person learning. That’s the best opportunity for our students. We know that so much of the learning occurs in that interaction between other students as well as the teacher in the classroom,” said Gov. Ige.
According to Gov. Ige, schools in Hawaiʻi have gotten at layered mitigation actions of co-horting students, minimizing interactions between the broader community within school campuses and keeping students in bubbles to limit the spread. He said summer programs and year-round program schools have been successful in implementing mitigation strategies.
“Today is Day 3 of the new school year and most of our students are back on campuses, after spending much of the last 17 months away from school,” said Interim School superintendent Keith Hayashi. “As a department and as a state we have prioritized reopening our schools for in-person learning. We want to be sure our students can continue to benefit from in-person learning. As part of that commitment, yesterday we made a tough decision to delay the start of our fall athletic season to allow time for student athletes and athletic staff to get fully vaccinated. Today’s announcement by our governors and our mayors will help further protect our schools and communities,” he said.
A group of about 100 people showed up for a demonstration on Maui this morning protesting the requirement for student athlete vaccinations.
Meantime, the state Department of Education has 22,000 salaried employees and another 20,000 part time and casual workers, making the department the largest state agency. Interim Director Hayashi said, “We were fortunate to have our staff prioritized for vaccines as frontline essential workers back in January, giving our teachers, bus drivers, custodians and other team members early access to vaccinations.”
The Emergency Proclamation Also Includes the Following:
The updated emergency proclamation also does the following:
- The statewide mandatory mask mandate continues for indoor public settings. “I certainly would encourage you strongly to wear a mask outdoors if you are in a large group or are unable to maintain physical distancing,” said Gov. Ige.
- The mandatory travel quarantine and the safe travels program continues, including the pre-travel testing requirement and the vaccine exemption to quarantine.
- The suspension of licensing requirements for select medical and health care professionals that meet certain conditions continues. “This allows us to address staffing needs in our hospitals and health care clinics all across the state.”
- Boards and commissions continue to meet virtually, using interactive teleconference technology.
- The extension continues on the expirations of drivers licenses, state IDs, and instructional permits that expired during the emergency period. All of those with expired licenses and IDs will have additional time to update their driver’s licenses and IDs.
- The eviction moratorium ends on Aug. 6, 2021, as previously announced. “There has been much said in the news about the eviction moratorium,” said Gov. Ige. “Our proclamation does end the state’s eviction moratorium, as announced 20 days ago. For those who are behind in their payments, and landlords who may have a tenant who is behind, are strongly encouraged to seek rental assistance that is available in every county across the state. We do not know what the impact of the federal eviction moratorium will be. We continue to work with federal agencies and here in the state to determine what the impact of that federal CDC eviction moratorium will be.”
“I really want to ask everyone who is not vaccinate to get vaccinated as soon as possible,” said Gov. Ige. “This is the best way for us to keep our community healthy and safe. Every one of us can make a difference in getting our schools back to in-person learning to keep our communities healthy and strong. Get vaccinated, stay home when you’re sick, and keep your children home if they’re sick. Get tested for COVID-19 if you have symptoms, wear your mask indoors and outdoors if you’re in a large group or gathering, wash your hands frequently or use hand sanitizer. Taking these simple everyday actions, if all of us do it, helps us fight against COVID-19,” said Gov. Ige.
Six Hawaiʻi public unions issue joint statement on governor’s vaccine policy
The Hawaiʻi Fire Fighters Association (HFFA), Hawaiʻi Government Employees Association (HGEA), the Hawaiʻi State Teachers Association (HSTA), the State of Hawaiʻi Organization of Police Officers (SHOPO), the University of Hawaiʻi Professional Assembly (UHPA), and the United Public Workers (UPW) released the following joint statement in reaction to Gov. David Ige’s plan to impose a vaccination mandate for state and county employees:
“We strongly encourage COVID-19 vaccinations as part of our united effort to beat the pandemic and protect our community’s health. The health and well-being of our public employees, who have been essential during this pandemic, remain our top priority while we continue to keep vital government operations running every day.
“The public-sector unions reached out to the governor’s office earlier this week to initiate discussions about the vaccine mandate, but our request was denied. We will continue to fight for open discussions about these important decisions that affect public employees, our government operations, and our community.
“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 collective bargaining process is premised on the foundation that a harmonious and cooperative relationship between government and its employees will better protect and serve the public by assuring the effective and orderly operations of government. There is no greater time in our history and existence that this process be recognized and honored.”
Chief Justice Recktenwald Statement on COVID-19 Vaccinations
Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald issued the following message on Thursday afternoon to all Hawaiʻi State Judiciary employees this afternoon, encouraging them to get vaccinated against COVID-19:
“The Judiciary firmly supports COVID-19 vaccinations and believes strongly that a fully vaccinated workforce is necessary for the health and safety of one another, those with whom we interact, and the entire community, which continues to suffer greatly from this devastating virus. Therefore, we are planning a vaccination and testing program to require that all employees be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 or undergo testing on a regular basis.
“This is consistent with the approach of other public employers. Governor David Ige, all four Hawaii Mayors, the Department of Education, and the University of Hawaii, will be requiring that all their employees be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 or undergo testing on a regular basis.
“Details and an implementation date for the Judiciary’s program will be determined in discussion with stakeholders. We intend the interim period to serve as a reasonable timeframe for employees to assess their personal situations and decide whether to be vaccinated or undergo regular testing. We urge employees who are able to be vaccinated to do so. Should you have questions about vaccinations, please consult public health authorities, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov) and the Hawai‘i State Department of Health (health.hawaii.gov).
“As previously advised, employees may take up to two hours of paid time off for each vaccination dose, as operations permit. Employees must coordinate with and receive authorization from their supervisor prior to leaving the worksite and may be required to provide proof of registration.
“We must work together during these challenging times to do all that we can to protect each other, our families, and the communities we serve.“