Hotel workers aren’t yet eligible for COVID vaccines in Hawaii. Should they be?

Updated: Feb. 19, 2021 at 5:47 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii hotel workers say if tourism is considered essential to the state, they should be prioritized for COVID vaccines.

The state Department of Health said many, if not most, employees in hotels are considered essential under Phase 1C of the state’s vaccination plan. That phase has not been implemented.

Hawaii is currently in 1B, which includes those 75 and over and a long list of essential workers.

“Where are the worker protections?” asked Bryant de Venecia, the communications director for Unite Here Local 5. “Where is the concern for the people who are running the economy in our industry?”

The Hawaii Tourism and Lodging Association said they been working with the Hawaii Tourism Authority and are in discussions with the state for hotel workers to be moved up in line for vaccines.

“We have also asked HLTA lodging members to begin prioritizing and identifying their key, frontline workers in order to streamline the vaccination process for the Department of Health,” said association President and CEO Mufi Hannemann.

Workers at the Surfjack Hotel and Swim Club in Waikiki said they are fortunate to have 70% occupancy. They have found a niche with military families moving to the islands.

However, they said, a high volume of guests coming to the hotel worries them.

“How can we keep showing up to work every day with that same aloha spirit when we’re very worried behind the scenes?” said Jordyn Kilgore, who works the front desk.

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