With days until state worker vaccine mandate takes effect, educators seek clarity

Published: Aug. 11, 2021 at 5:34 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 11, 2021 at 6:11 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - With less than a week until vaccinations or testing will be required for Hawaii public workers, many educators said they still don’t have details about how it will work.

As employees wait for details of things like how they can avoid vaccination if they want, Gov. David Ige said Tuesday that would be up to individual departments.

“We’ll be sharing the overall guidance about how the policy should be implemented,” Ige said. “Each of the employers will be able to make an adjustment for their situation.”

That’s exactly what public school administrators say they are doing now. A spokesperson said that by Monday, all 42,000 of their employees will need to show proof of vaccination or will be subject to testing.

Many, including the board, are anxious to see the rollout.

[READ MORE: Governor announces tough new vaccine rules for all state and county workers]

“Testing is key,” said Catherine Payne, the chairperson for the Board of Education. “There’s some discussion about whether that needs to be twice a week because of the time that it takes to incubate the virus. So I guess that is still being worked out.”

Julie Reyes Oda is a teacher for Nanakuli High and Intermediate School. She said the last time she heard any updates from the Department of Education was the day the governor announced the requirement last week.

“I have questions about it,” she said. “The problem is, we don’t have any details that come with it.”

She said she’s vaccinated, but wants to ensure that her colleagues have a choice.

“I still think that the governor is honoring the fact that people are still getting the choice to vaccinate or not,” she said. “That is not necessarily the case across the U.S.”

According to the attorney general’s office, someone can just opt for testing, they don’t have to show a religious or medical exemption. The governor said that is still being discussed.

There are opponents fighting against the mandate in the first place. Attorney Michael Green says he now represents hundreds of public workers.

”I mean, the question is, no one knows what’s going on in this state,” Green said. “It’s hard to figure out where the governor, the mayor, the attorney general is coming from.”

The Hawaii State Teachers Association said it still has many outstanding questions with the vaccination and testing rules.

“If someone misses a test, will they be suspended or terminated?” asked Osa Tui, the HSTA president in a statement. “Will employees be provided work time to get tested? What type of test will be accepted? What do teachers need to submit for verification of testing or of vaccination, and how will they do that?”

“These types of questions have not been addressed and the information needs to be made clear to our educators, especially if their jobs are on the line with implementation in just three working days.”

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