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All 4 Hawaii mayors are considering vaccine mandates for county workers

Published: Aug. 3, 2021 at 4:55 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As the number of new COVID cases soars to record levels and hospital bed space dwindles, every Hawaii mayor is now looking at making vaccines mandatory for county workers in a bid to drive down infections and prevent the virus from mutating into something worse.

Potential policy changes would apply to nearly 13,000 workers statewide.

The talks come as mandatory vaccinations for government workers is catching on across the country.

In addition to ensuring first responders and service workers are better protected, officials say vaccine requirements are an efficient way to get a larger percentage of the population vaccinated.

“No one is supportive of a lockdown. Shutting down the economy again. Restricting travel,” said Healthcare Association of Hawaii CEO Hilton Raethel. ”So we’ve got very few options left.”

Raethel says over the past two weeks the state and some of the counties ― he wouldn’t disclose which ones ― have asked the agency for advice on what to do.

He says he encouraged them to make vaccines mandatory. And to do it fast.

“As soon as possible,” Raethel said. “Absolutely as soon as possible.”

HNN reached out to all the counties.

Officials from the Maui County Mayor Mike Victorino’s office confirmed they’re “discussing mandatory vaccinations” for their employees. But they had no timeline on when a decision would be made.

A spokesperson at the Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi’s office said:

“The City is committed to stopping the spread of the virus and variant and are seriously considering requiring City employees be vaccinated, attesting to fully vaccinated status, or be subject to regular testing. Any action the City takes will be in compliance with all relevant laws.”

Meanwhile, officials with Kauai Derek Kawakami’s office said:

“The county is considering all options to help increase vaccine rates. Gov. Ige has expressed an interest in a adopting a ‘vaccine or regular testing’ policy for all government employees, so that is one specific option under consideration. At this point, there is no timeline.”

In a phone interview Big Island Mayor Mitch Roth said he’s also considering a mandate.

“We’ve talked about it with the governor and all the mayors together,” he said.

“We’re kind of listening to the advice that comes from the Attorney General so right now we’re kind of waiting for them to get back. We’ve asked them to talk to all the unions.”

When asked about a timeline, he said it’s still in the works.

Raethel says he’s also aware of several Hawaii businesses looking to institute a vaccine mandate.

“We anticipate there will be announcements made very soon,” he said.

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