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Honolulu’s strict vaccine mandate could sideline hundreds of first responders who refuse to get shot

Published: Sep. 1, 2021 at 5:14 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 1, 2021 at 5:24 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi has the most restrictive vaccine mandate in place in Hawaii government ― and it could soon sideline hundreds of emergency workers who refuse to get the shot.

City employees who refuse to get vaccinated and are denied religious or medical exemptions could be fired or placed on leave without pay.

Of the 2,500 total Honolulu Police Department workers, about 270 officers and civilians have requested exemptions and around two dozen didn’t fill out the vaccine status form altogether.

There are nearly 100 Honolulu Fire Department workers who are also seeking to opt out. That’s both firefighters and civilians ― out of 1,125 total.

The Honolulu Emergency Services Department did not provide details on how many of their approximately 500 workers want an exemption.

The department covers paramedics, EMTs, and lifeguards with Ocean Safety.

Vaccine mandates for all state and county workers were announced last month in a bid to address an ongoing surge in COVID cases statewide that’s threatened to overwhelm Hawaii’s hospitals.

The state saw its deadliest day of the pandemic so far on Wednesday, with 13 deaths.

Hawaii News Now asked Blangiardi for information about vaccinations among first responders at a news conference Monday.

“It’s pretty fluid,” Blangiardi said.

But he told the media he was meeting later that afternoon with the Human Resources department to get the information.

On Wednesday, his spokesman said Human Resources was still going through paperwork.

At a Honolulu Police Commission meeting Wednesday, acting Deputy Chief Ryan Nishibun revealed that 37 HPD officers are currently out either with COVID or quarantined because of exposure.

Nishibun said that number was not affecting operations. When asked by a commission for the number that would, Nishibun answered, “I would say a couple hundred.”

The other county mayors are allowing workers to take weekly tests if they’re not vaccinated.

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