With the number of COVID-related deaths on the rise in Hawaii, mandatory proof of vaccine protocol has been implemented in Oahu starting Monday, September, 13.
This new protocol called "New Safe Access" requires business owners, contractors and all people who work with the public to either offer verification of a COVID vaccine or a weekly negative test result in order to operate.
Businesses included in this new rule are restaurants, theaters, bars, gyms, and any place where mass gatherings are held.
Not only must proprietors and their staff have proof, so must customers over the age of 12.
Although the new mandate is polarizing among the community, the majority of business owners are on board in order to increase revenue through tourism and to help keep their staff employed.
However one aspect of the Oahu mandate is not as welcoming. Also starting Monday, a new rule in which liquor is no longer allowed to be sold after 10 pm even on weekends has the community worried.
“We are going to lose some revenue not having that last hour of sales and making sure we’re 100% clear and making sure everyone is out by 10 p.m.,” Joe Lorenzen, Waikiki Brewing Company brewmaster, told local news station KHON.
“We’re just doing our best to stay open and keep everyone employed. We definitely — at least for the first week — we’re going to make sure we have a manager at the door with the host to make sure we can talk to people, explain our policies and procedures and do our best to make it as smooth for everybody as possible,” Lorenzen added.
According to local business general manager Jacqueline Hansen, customers have already started phoning her Kailua restaurant, Beet Box Cafe, saying they will boycott the eatery if they implement the rule.
“It was pretty shocking and unfortunate to hear,” She said concerned about her staff switching to take-out only at that location for now. “There’s a lot of fear and a lot of concern for my employees that they’re going to be losing shifts, possibly all their shifts. Everybody depends on this income. So with these mandates, business does tend to slow down a little bit, and we do our best to keep everybody employed and fully staffed.”
Hansen requires that her employees either have been vaccinated or prove they are COVID-free using antigen testing every week.
Deaths from COVID are on the rise in Hawaii. As of this writing, there have been 63 related deaths already in September, compared to 53 for the entire month of August.
Oahu gym owner Benjamin Wilkison, who is following the new mandate, believes the vaccine isn't a "silver bullet," but it's move in the right direction.
“I think if there’s anything we’ve learned the last year and a half at this point it’s to be resilient and be ready for anything and roll with the punches the best we can,” Lorenzen told KHON.
Businesses that do not comply with New Safe Access may face a hefty fine or even jail time.
Header photo: Beet Box Cafe, Kailua, on Facebook.