In response to absolutely skyrocketing numbers of infections on Oahu, Mayor Rick Blangiardi is implementing the first vaccine pass program in Hawaii. Called Safe Access Oahu, our program is kind of similar to those in San Francisco and New York. Oh and Safe Access Oahu begins on September 13.
Like the rest of Hawaii, Oahu isn’t doing well in controlling the spread of COVID-19. At the moment, our 14-day daily new case average is at 601 with a test positivity rate of just under 9%. In some parts of the islands, its even as high as 33%. Crazy! And, as you might imagine, hospitals are already feeling the pain. Some are filled to capacity, while oxygen shortages may soon become a reality. Our morgue is also already over capacity, with the city now relying on cold storage trailers to store the excess. However, as Mayor Rick Blangiardi stated before, he is vehemently against implementing another lockdown. Governor David Ige is also hesitant to institute another lockdown, though he’s been treating one for weeks now. So, the solution, at least for Mayor Blangiardi, is Safe Access Oahu.
Safe Access Oahu Begins September 13
Safe Access Oahu is our version of a vaccine pass program. Much like other cities in the continental US, Safe Access Oahu mandates that patrons of indoor businesses show proof of vaccination to enter. But, unlike elsewhere in the US, our program is a little more broad. The order applies to all entertainment/recreational establishments, restaurants/bars, and indoor gyms/fitness centers. Notably, these establishments include hotel gyms, indoor food courts, recreational boats, aquariums, and so forth. Those seem like difficult places to enforce at and, as a result, I think we may see some hotels close their gym rather than try to figure out how to enforce the rules. But I know some places, like the Waikiki Beach Marriott, already have a system down – you need to get a one-time-use key from the front desk to access the gym.
As far as proof of vaccination goes, Hawaii and Honolulu both don’t have a digital vaccine pass system. So, patrons can present a physical copy of their vaccine card, a photocopy of their card, or a Hawaii Safe Travels vaccine exemption. Currently, this requirement applies to both patrons and employees, though children under the age of 12 are exempt since they can’t get vaccinated yet.
For those that can’t or won’t get vaccinated, a testing option is available. Employees can test weekly to bypass the vaccine requirement, while patrons need proof of a negative test taken within the past 48 hours. Acceptable tests include those approved by the FDA under an Emergency Use Authorization, which includes Amazon’s at-home rapid PCR test.
The program is set to run for at least 60 days and could be extended based on the course of the pandemic. Oh, and, the new rules don’t eliminate the pre-existing capacity limits or social distancing requirements.
Safe Access Oahu isn’t perfect. There is a robust black market for counterfeit vaccine cards, and it doesn’t look terribly difficult to fabricate one of your own. Further, if children are quickly becoming a vector, isn’t exempting them a major issue? But, hey, this new measure is better than nothing. It’s certainly better than Governor Ige’s request that visitors stay away. Will this system work, though? Hopefully. And I do think it has a better chance of making a difference than the Big Island’s new restrictions.
Look, I get it. Safe Access Oahu is about compromise. No one wants to see a complete shutdown again, and this is certainly better than nothing. I just think it could have been thought out a little better.