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State gives Transportation Security Administration and airlines exemptions to Hawaii’s COVID emergency orders

  • CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Hawaiian Airlines is consulting with state officials so it can meet the requirements of Gov. David Ige’s order as soon as possible. Above, the airline’s terminal at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport on Sunday.

    CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Hawaiian Airlines is consulting with state officials so it can meet the requirements of Gov. David Ige’s order as soon as possible. Above, the airline’s terminal at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport on Sunday.

Gov. David Ige’s order requiring that contractors and visitors at state facilities and property provide proof of their vaccination or testing status prior to entry has already been in effect for a week, but thousands of workers at state airports still aren’t in compliance.

Ige signed Executive Order 21-07 on Sept. 8. The document, which was issued to ensure the safety of the government workforce during the escalation in COVID-19 infections, went into effect Sept. 13, the same day that Hono­lulu’s Safe Access O‘ahu vaccination and testing requirements began.

While some businesses were able to meet the requirements promptly, others, including airlines and the Transportation Security Administration, have requested a grace period.

Ige spokeswoman Cindy McMillan said in a statement that “Dir. (Kenneth) Hara has approved requests by the airlines and Transportation Security Administration to have until Oct. 15, 2021 to comply with the governor’s Executive Order.”

“This aligns with the implementation date for similar federal requirements,” McMillan said. “Other organizations have begun to request the same extension, and their justifications are being reviewed.”

McMillan said companies that requested extra time indicated that they needed it to “contact their subcontractors and arrange for all of those employees to be vaccinated or tested to meet the requirements, which went into effect quickly.”

Angela Keen, co-founder of Hawaii Kapu Quarantine Breakers, said the grace period is worrisome because “it doesn’t send the right safety message to the public and to visitors.”

Keen said a grace period isn’t fair to businesses that went through hurdles to comply by the deadline. She also believes that it puts airport employees and visitors at additional risk of catching COVID-19.

“I’m sure there are other companies in Hawaii that are challenged because they have a lot of employees,” she said. “Why does the tourism industry get a pass? If I were another company, I’d be pretty upset if I knew they had been able to get exemptions. They are in contact with a lot of people. If they catch coronavirus and go home and are asymptomatic, they could infect household members who go to work and school. That’s how we get clusters.”

The airlines contend that they did not receive enough notice to immediately comply with Ige’s order, which includes a myriad of steps that contractors must follow.

Alex Da Silva, spokesman for Hawaiian Airlines, said the hometown carrier is consulting with state officials so it can meet the program’s requirements as soon as possible.

“As a large and essential business, we appreciate that the state has provided us with a grace period to allow us to fully understand and comply with the new safety protocols,” Da Silva said. “We announced our vaccination requirement for all U.S.-based employees last month and are working with the state to align our work to the order.”

Hawaiian has interpreted the order to apply to its airport personnel in customer-facing roles, which consist of about 700 employees across the state airports.

While the carrier is still working to meet state requirements, Da Silva said, “Most of our U.S.-based employees are fully vaccinated, ahead of our vaccination requirement that takes effect Nov. 1.”

DOT spokesman Jai Cunningham said the agency has been working with airlines, airport contractors and harbor users to comply with the order.

“There is an understanding by the airport users (and harbor users) that there is an urgent need to have employees vaccinated, as well as respecting individual rights to be tested in lieu of vaccinations,” Cunningham said.

Under Ige’s executive order, all contractors entering, working or providing services in any state facility may not remain in any state facility unless they are in compliance. Companies and workers covered by the order are subject to new steps, including:

>> Identifying all employees accessing state facilities.

>> Attesting to whether employees are fully vaccinated for COVID- 19, partially vaccinated (one of two doses) or not vaccinated for COVID-19.

>> Providing weekly verification that partially vaccinated or unvaccinated employees are COVID-19 tested with a negative result once or twice a week, as determined by the state department/agency receiving the goods/services.

>> Wearing a mask at all times while in the state facility and being physically distanced from others.

The executive order also pertains to visitors but not to the traveling public. It exempts “individuals entering any state airport for the purpose of traveling out of or into an airport located within the state.”

It also exempts visitors to state beaches or outdoor sites, inmates, children under 12, students attending a Department of Education or charter school, and individuals making deliveries where contact is limited to under 10 minutes.

Nonexempt visitors to state facilities, who will make contact with state employees, must:

>> Provide verification of full vaccination.

>> Provide a negative COVID-19 test result if not fully vaccinated.

>> Wear a mask at all times while in a state facility and maintain physical distance from others.

>> Verify vaccinations or COVID-19 tests through digital or hard-copy documentation.

>> Contractors and visitors may not remain in any state facility unless they are in compliance with the order.

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