Ige: No DOE vaccination requirement for fall

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Travelers walk toward the front of the Hilo International Airport on Monday.

State Department of Education schools will not require students to be vaccinated from COVID-19 until at least the end of 2021, Gov. David Ige said Monday.

The University of Hawaii on Monday announced that students will be required to receive a vaccine in order to attend classes on campus in the fall. However, Ige said during a livestreamed interview Monday that the same will not be required of DOE school students for the foreseeable future.

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“I’ve been talking with Superintendent Christina Kishimoto, and we don’t anticipate a vaccine for younger children until the end of the year or even beyond that,” Ige said. “So we won’t be in a situation where all students would be eligible.”

Ige noted that 12- to 15-year-olds only became eligible for vaccinations in Hawaii last week, but no pediatric vaccine for children younger than 12 has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

However, Ige hinted that new rules regarding school sports and other outdoor activities will be announced within “a matter of hours,” but did not go into specifics on Monday.

As the state’s vaccination rate rises — 1.4 million doses have been administered as of last weekend, and data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention place Hawaii among the top five states in vaccinations per capita — Ige said further restrictions will be lifted across various fields of life.

For example, Ige reiterated that he likely will announce an expansion of the state’s vaccine passport program within the next month. The expansion would take the current program, which allows fully vaccinated travelers to avoid requirements for COVID-19 tests or quarantines when traveling between islands, and apply it to domestic trans-Pacific travel as well.

Ige also suggested he might reverse his recent decision regarding the CDC’s guidance for masks if the state reaches a high enough vaccination threshold. Although the CDC issued recommendations last week that vaccinated people don’t have to wear masks in most circumstances, Ige said last week the state’s mask mandate will remain in place for the time being.

“Effectively, saying that those who are fully vaccinated don’t have to wear a mask … essentially, that would be unenforceable,” Ige said Monday.

Ige said the state eventually will begin dropping mask requirements in certain circumstances as vaccination rates increase, and has discussed with state health officials how to integrate vaccination rates into the equations governing Honolulu’s tier system. However, he said the state has not determined where that threshold will be.

Ige also hinted at new rules concerning unemployment insurance coming in the near future. At the beginning of the pandemic, the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations dropped a requirement for UI beneficiaries to apply for three jobs a week to be eligible.

Other states made similar changes but have begun reverting those policies.

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Ige suggested Monday that Hawaii may also revert its unemployment policies to pre-pandemic conditions, but again offered no specifics. More details will come within the next few weeks, he said.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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