(BIVN) – As Hawaiʻi faces a dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases, a new vaccination and testing policy is rolling out for state and county workers.
Beginning August 16, all state and county employees “will either need to provide proof of vaccination or undergo routine testing”, announced Governor David Ige on Thursday, after he signed a new emergency proclamation.
If a free testing site is not used, employees must cover the testing costs themselves, Governor Ige said. State employees have been granted administrative leave to get vaccinated during work hours, he added.
“The highly contagious Delta variant creates a big risk of infection, especially for members of our community who are not vaccinated,” the Governor later tweeted. “With spiking COVID-19 case numbers, we have to take measures now to prevent an unmanageable strain on our healthcare system.”
The new proclamation keeps in place the statewide mandatory mask mandate for indoor public settings. It also continues the mandatory travel quarantine, and the Safe Travels program, including the pre-travel testing requirement and the vaccine exceptions to quarantine. The proclamation also continues the suspension of licensing requirements for select medical and health care professionals that meet certain conditions, which the State says will help hospitals and clinics address staffing needs.
The proclamation also allows boards and commissions to continue to meet virtually using interactive conference technology.
Under the new proclamation, motorists will also have more time to renew their drivers licenses, and state I.Ds.
The proclamation also puts an end to the state moratorium on evictions, as announced 20 days ago. “We do not know what the impacts of the federal eviction moratorium might be,” the governor said.
Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald issued the following message to all Hawaii 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.
Six Hawaiʻi public unions also issued a joint statement in response to the governor’s proclamation:
The Hawaii Fire Fighters Association (HFFA), Hawaii Government Employees Association (HGEA), the Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA), the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers (SHOPO), the University of Hawaii 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.