The Hawaii State Department of Education is pushing back the start of all fall sports to late September in order to implement a coronavirus vaccine mandate for everyone involved in public school athletics.
DOE officials today announced all student-athletes, athletic staff and volunteers will need to be fully vaccinated by Sept. 24 to participate in school-sanctioned athletic activities for the 2021-22 school year. Full vaccination is defined as two weeks after a second dose in a two-dose series or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine, the news release said.
All fall sports practices for public schools are canceled until further notice.
The announcement comes as the state is in the midst of its greatest COVID-19 case surge of the pandemic, and as its testing positivity rate hits 6 percent.
In a letter addressed to parents and dated Aug. 4, interim DOE Superintendent Keith Hayashi explained the postponement: “We opened the new school year this week with in-person learning and our highest priority is to ensure all students, including your child, can continue to attend school safely. In the meantime, due to the state’s high positivity rate, the Department is delaying the start of the fall athletic season until Sept. 24 to allow for anyone unvaccinated or not yet fully vaccinated to get inoculated.”
Hayashi, added, “This decision was not made lightly because we know the important role athletics play in a well-rounded education, but we cannot jeopardize the health and safety of our students and communities. The alternative is cancelling the season outright, which we do not want to have to do. We are implementing this layered plan that prioritizes vaccination as the best way to protect against and reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19.”
The statement said that “students and staff who get an initial COVID vaccine dose by Aug. 20 can be fully vaccinated by the Sept. 24 deadline.”
The DOE announcement also said, “By Aug. 20, 2021, proof of full vaccination or administration of the first and/or second vaccination dose must be submitted to the school’s principal in order to initially qualify to participate in school-sanctioned athletic activities.
“By Sept. 24, 2021, student-athletes and athletic staff and volunteers will be required to provide proof of full vaccination prior to participation in school-sanctioned athletic activities.”
Preseason football games were scheduled to begin on Friday. TheOahu Interscholastic Association’s regular season was slated to start on Aug. 13.
The state’s public high school leagues postponed fall sports, including football, in 2020, due to the pandemic. Fall sports were later cancelled. There has not been an official high school football game in Hawaii since the fall of 2019.
Preseason football games this weekend between Aiea and Leilehua, and Campbell and Waipahu had already been cancelled due to the virus.