Honolulu to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination

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Honolulu, Hawaii, announced new COVID-19 vaccine regulations on Monday. 

The city and county on the island of O'ahu's south shore will require employees at "restaurants, bars, gyms, movie theaters, museums, arcades and other similar establishments" to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to operate.

Customers will also have to provide proof that they are fully vaccinated to enter the business or proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 48 hours of entry into the premises.

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Children under 12 years old are exempt from these rules as well as individuals entering and remaining for 15 minutes or less per 24-hour period and employees, interns, volunteers and contractors who show weekly proof of a negative COVID-19 test result. 

An exception also applies for a restaurant that operates solely as takeout, delivery or a food truck.

The restrictions, dubbed the "Safe Access O‘ahu" program, were devised by Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi "in collaboration with business and restaurant leaders" in order to "aggressively counteract the surge of COVID-19 cases" in the community.

Like much of the U.S., cases in Hawaii have risen due to the highly infectious delta variant. 

On Monday, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser said that Hawaii Department of Health officials reported 720 new confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases, including 468 on O'ahu.

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"Given the continued high infection rates on O‘ahu and the strain to our hospital and emergency medical systems, it is my belief we must take additional steps to reduce the spread of the virus," Blangiardi said in a release. "We want to create safe spaces for employees and customers so they can feel confident the people around them are either vaccinated or have a negative test. We will continue to evaluate the program over the next 60 days and if the high infection rate or hospitalization rates have not improved, we will adjust the program to require mandatory vaccinations."

Businesses subject to Safe Access O'ahu will be required to post a notice at their entrance in "full view of all who enter," and the business owner or authorized agent of each covered entity must also complete an attestation form confirming that they are "in compliance with the program."

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Honolulu officials added they would expand its mandatory vaccination program to "to include all City vendors, consultants or contractors that have or will have any of their employees physically present, in excess of 15 minutes per 24-hour day, at any City facility."

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"All City vendors, consultants or contractors must complete a form attesting they are fully vaccinated or exempted consistent with City requirements," it said. 

Lastly, the city wrote that it was implementing a 10 p.m. cut-off for the sale, service and consumption of liquor at establishments that sell liquor for on-premises consumption.

These changes are scheduled to begin on Monday, Sept. 13. 

In a tweet on Monday, however, Hawaii Gov. David Ige dispelled rumors regarding a COVID-19-related shutdown.

"There have been rumors circulating about a shut down in Hawaii. I want to clear the record that there are currently no plans to shut down. All posts on social media and being distributed by other means are not true. Official announcements will always come from official channels," he wrote.

Last week, Ige urged tourists not to visit Hawaii through October.

"It is a risky time to be traveling right now," Ige said Monday, asking visitors and residents to limit their travel to essential businesses only. "I encourage everyone to restrict and curtail travel to Hawaii. It’s not a good time to travel to the islands."

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