Question: Gov. David Ige, Mayor Rick Blangiardi and other government officials rightly encourage Hawaii residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19 to protect the health of all Hawaii’s people and so restrictions on travel, business, etc., can be lifted. Amid this push for the general public, I’d like to know what percentage of state and county government workers are vaccinated?
Answer: We received an answer from Honolulu County — at least 62% of county employees are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 — but no details from the state.
You are one of several readers asking whether Hawaii’s government leaders can do more to ensure that employees under their jurisdictions are vaccinated, especially since government employees generally have not paid an economic price for Hawaii’s pandemic response (layoffs and furloughs have centered on the private sector) and because Hawaii’s reopening, and the revival of civil liberties such as the freedom to travel and gather with fewer restrictions, depends on meeting vaccination benchmarks set by Gov. David Ige. Several readers also expressed dismay that state prison guards, even trainees, are not required to be vaccinated; recent outbreaks have occurred among guards and inmates.
Based on these types of questions and complaints, on Tuesday we emailed the following questions to the governor’s and Honolulu mayor’s communication offices:
Q: What is the COVID-19 vaccination rate among state employees? What is the COVID-19 vaccination rate among Honolulu County employees?
Q: If that information is not available, why is it not available?
Q: To what extent, if any, has lack of vaccination among state or county employees impaired the reopening of or full functioning of government offices? (Readers are primarily asking about the state unemployment offices, public schools, public university campuses and county driver’s licensing centers and satellite city halls).
Q: Do public worker union contractors flat-out prevent the state and counties from gathering this information (the COVID-19 vaccination status of employees)?
Cindy McMillan, the governor’s spokeswoman, responded the same day, but only to say she did not have the answers and would “respond as quickly as we can.” We heard nothing further by deadline.
Tim Sakahara, spokesman for Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi, responded Wednesday, saying in an email:
“At least 62% of the city’s workforce has been fully vaccinated at the Leeward Community College Point of Dispensing site. This is an underestimate of the total percentage for the city workforce that is fully vaccinated as we do not have access to data for employees who were vaccinated elsewhere, e.g. pharmacies, other PODs, etc. (therefore, these numbers are not included in the estimated 62%).
In addition, city departments/offices can arrange for a vaccination team to visit specific worksites to administer the vaccine to employees, at a time that will not disrupt operations. City employees are eligible to take up to two hours of paid leave to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, if operations permit and approved by the department. The city is not aware of any concerns from the unions on gathering information on the vaccination status of individual employees.”
Q: I am leaving Hawaii. Can I still claim PUA? It is a federal program.
A: “Yes, but you must update your address through your online PUA account,” according to the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. PUA stands for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, the federal program for the self-employed and others not eligible for traditional unemployment compensation. PUA is scheduled to expire the first week in September.
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