Exemptions to Hawaii's COVID mandate end at state facilities

·3 min read

Oct. 16—The state is not granting any more exemptions to Gov. David Ige's order requiring contractors and visitors at state facilities and properties to provide proof of their COVID-19 vaccination or testing status prior to entry.

Ige signed Executive Order 21-07 on Sept. 8. The order, which was issued to ensure the safety of the government workforce during the escalation in COVID-19 infections, went into effect Sept. 13, the same day Honolulu's Safe Access O 'ahu vaccination and testing requirements began.

While some entities were able to meet the requirements promptly, others, including airlines and the Transportation Security Administration, requested a grace period.

Adjutant Gen. Kenneth Hara of the state Department of Defense initially approved requests by airlines and TSA to extend the deadline to Friday to comply with the governor's executive order. He also reviewed and initially gave other exemptions as well.

But on Thursday, Hara said, "I do not plan to extend any of the exceptions granted that have an end date."

Hara said Ige's follow-up emergency proclamation signed Oct. 1 set forth specific provisions for amendments or exemptions to the requirements of the rules relating to access to state property.

"All requests sent directly to the Governor or the Director of Emergency Management will be sent back to the requestor with a request to comply with the requirements of the Rules, " he said in an email.

The state's more hard-line approach on exemptions comes as new vaccine mandates have already been established or are under review by the federal government and private businesses.

President Joe Biden last month announced his intent to mandate that firms with 100 or more employees require COVID-19 vaccinations or at least weekly testing for employees. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has yet to issue an "emergency temporary standard " to implement the requirement.

Still, some local companies such as Hawaiian Airlines already have established their own guidelines.

Hawaiian Airlines announced in early August that all U.S.-based employees are required to be vaccinated by Nov. 1. Hawaiian Airlines spokesman Alex Da Silva said the carrier also is in compliance with Ige's order.

"Safety is the core of our business and vaccines are the most effective way to protect ourselves, our guests and the communities we serve, " Da Silva said in an email. "So far, about 80 % of employees have reported being vaccinated but the actual number is higher as more employees verify their immunization record each day. Everyone who participates in our vaccination program receives paid time off."

He added that Hawaiian Airlines is offering a transition testing period for employees who need more time to consider their options.

"We recognize the importance of these decisions and respect the choices our employees make, " Da Silva said.

But by Dec. 8, in alignment with the federal government's COVID-19 vaccination order for contractors, he said employees must either be vaccinated, have an approved reasonable accommodation request or take an approved unpaid leave of absence to remain with the company.

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