Vaccine card or negative test will soon be required for entry to many Oahu businesses

Published: Aug. 30, 2021 at 12:55 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 31, 2021 at 10:58 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Beginning Sept. 13, customers wishing to enter Oahu restaurants, bars, gyms and other establishments will need to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test.

The city’s Safe Access Oahu program will remain in effect for 60 days.

And the rules will be mandatory for all businesses covered by a new emergency order.

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi announced the program Monday amid an alarming surge in new COVID cases in Hawaii that’s threatening to overwhelm Hawaii’s health care system.

In addition to bars and restaurants, movie theaters and museums will need to ask customers for vaccine cards or proof of a negative COVID test taken within the last 48 hours.

There will also be vaccine-or-test requirements in place for employees at impacted businesses. And also effective Sept. 13, restaurants and bars will have to stop serving alcohol at 10 p.m.

These are the establishments covered by the Safe Access Oahu order:

  • Restaurants and bars (takeout is exempt)
  • Gyms and fitness facilities, including dance studios
  • Bowling alleys, arcades and billiards halls
  • Movie theaters
  • Museums
  • Indoor portions of botanical gardens, zoos or other attractions

Children under 12, who are ineligible for vaccines, are exempt from the requirements.

Blangiardi said that including the testing option was important to decrease the economic hit the program is expected to take on businesses already struggling amid the pandemic.

“We wanted to have a really common sense approach,” he said.

Blangiardi added: “We are trying to rebuild. We don’t want a lockdown.”

The so-called “vaccine pass” program represents one of the most significant government measures announced to date aimed at reining in the rapid spread of the Delta variant in Hawaii.

The state and county have also instituted vaccine mandates for employees, and Oahu previously announced tougher restrictions on gathering sizes.

“This is about public health ― with numbers like nothing we’ve seen before,” Blangiardi said. “We’re begging, begging people to get vaccinated and anywhere we can enforce it we will.”

This month alone, Hawaii has seen more than 20,000 new COVID infections and 52 deaths. The numbers, once unthinkable in a state long lauded for keeping its cases low, have triggered an alarming spike in hospitalizations. The vast majority of those in the hospital are unvaccinated.

But so-called “breakthrough” cases are also increasing, in a sign of just how widespread the virus is.

The mayor said businesses covered by the Safe Access Oahu program will be expected to enforce the new rules. Those that don’t could face fines or even temporary closure, he said.

In addition to the new vaccine-or-testing rules, Oahu restaurants and other establishments will also continue to be subject to current capacity restrictions.

Allen Farinas, owner of Shorefyre and Skybox Taphouse, said he’s worried about how the Safe Access Oahu program will be implemented.

“I think my reaction was just, what’s going to be next?” he said.

“How is this going to affect my employees, families, customers? We’re figuring out the process. There aren’t a lot of alternatives and I felt targeted. Why the restaurant industry?”

Farinas said there haven’t been any cases tied to his current locations.

Among the added restrictions, he said stopping alcohol sales at 10 p.m. will cut revenue and hours for employees. “Some people save up their whole lives to come here, and I feel like I can’t give them the full experience,” Farinas said.

Sheryl Matsuoka, the executive director of the Hawaii Restaurant Association, said many members are upset by the mayor’s actions — but it could have been worse.

“We’ve been working with Mayor Blangiardi for the last month,” Matsuoka said.

“And with these high COVID case counts, we knew something was going to happen. A total shutdown or vaccine passport with no testing option would be worse. So at least they’re giving us a testing option for employees and patrons who have medical reasons as to why they aren’t vaccinated.”

This story will be updated.

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