President’s tough new vaccination rules impact 20K federal civilian workers in Hawaii

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Published: Jul. 29, 2021 at 5:24 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 30, 2021 at 4:44 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Some 20,000 federal civilian workers in Hawaii along with on-site contractors are impacted by President Biden’s sweeping new vaccine order.

Under the new rules, they’ll be required to verify they’re vaccinated or face regular testing. Unvaccinated workers will also face travel restrictions and be required to mask up.

Biden outlined the requirements Thursday in an public address, calling the rising-yet-preventable deaths among the unvaccinated an “American tragedy.”

“Right now, too many people are dying or watching someone they love die and say, ‘If I’d just got the vaccine.’ People are dying who don’t have to die,” Biden said. “Want to know how we put this virus behind us? Well I’ll tell you how, we have to get more people vaccinated.”

He said federal civilian workers and onsite contractors who aren’t vaccinated “will be required to mask no matter where they work, test one or two times a week to see if they’ve acquired COVID, social distance, and generally will not be allowed to travel for work.”

Biden’s order come three days after the Department of Veterans announced a vaccine mandate for its healthcare workers.

Dr. Adam Robinson, director VA Pacific Health Care System and a former Surgeon General of the Navy, said there are medical and religious exemptions to the mandate.

80% of the VA Pacific Health Care System’s 1,600 employees have already been vaccinated.

“If we can stay the course and vaccinate, I truly feel that we can defeat the virus and I think the longer we debate that, the longer we are going to have COVID-19 with us,” Robinson said.

Meanwhile, the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers ― which represents 3,000 federal workers in Hawaii ― says it supports the vaccine mandate for federal workers.

“We don’t want any more of our members dying,” said the union, in a statement.

“We don’t think either our members or their mission should be placed at risk by those who have been hesitant to take a shot,” it added.

On Thursday, Biden also urged local governments to give $100 to those who get the vaccine. He said federal COVID aid could be used for the incentives.

But some local leaders questioned the suggestion.

“Why are we pampering those who are not vaccinated by having incentive programs?” asked Honolulu City Council member Calvin Say.

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