HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – As vaccinations have slowed in the islands and new infections have surged, some are considering vaccine mandates for state workers.
Gov. David Ige told Hawaii News Now on Tuesday that the state can legally require COVID-19 shots for state workers. But he wants to wait until the FDA gives its full approval to the vaccinations.
They currently have emergency approval. There is no definite timeline for full FDA approval.
Other jurisdictions, including California and New York City, have already moved ahead in mandating the vaccine for government workers and testing for those who refuse.
Ige says he’s not influenced by their decisions.
Some state agencies have previously said asking for employees’ vaccine status is not allowed because it’s private medical information. But under guidance from the Attorney General, the state can ask workers if they’ve gotten the COVID shot or not and can mandate that state workers get it.
“We do know and believe that we have the legal authority to mandate the vaccine ahead of that full use authorization. That would not be our preference,” said Ige.
The governor said he is looking different policies, including an across-the-board mandate.
“I think we’d look at both policies,” Ige said.
“We want to be fair to everyone and have the same guidelines apply to everyone and all public servants, but clearly there are some work situations that are different. That may require us to have a different policy.”
State workers are currently not required to get any vaccines, but the state is looking at high-risk congregate settings like jails and prisons.
There have been some union rumblings that workers may quit if forced to get vaccinated.
“We are concerned about the employee reaction,” said Ige.
“How many would change their job status or choose to walk away if we mandate it is something we consider, but I think it’s a secondary consideration,” he added.
Ige says if state workers are asked about their vaccination status, they don’t have to respond.
Meanwhile, Ige expressed concern about the ongoing rise in new COVID cases.
Some 105 people were hospitalized with COVID statewide Tuesday. Ige said if hospitalization don’t decline, hospitals could once again have to hold off on conducting any elective surgeries.
“They (hospitals) said everything is in control at this point in time,” said Ige.
Ige said he is also worried about outbreaks in restaurants, bars, workplaces, churches and at informal gatherings, but wouldn’t say if restrictions would tighten in those areas first.
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