Honolulu Joins New York, San Francisco in Requiring COVID Vaccine Proof for Some Activities

Honolulu is joining cities such as New York and San Francisco in requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination for some activities, including eating at restaurants, going to bars and attending the theater, the Associated Press reported.

Mayor Rick Blangiardi announced the plan, called Safe Access Oahu, following an increase in COVID-19 cases in Hawaii brought on by the Delta variant. If proof of vaccination can't be shown, a recent COVID-19 negative test will be required. The plan will begin on September 13 and is aimed at curbing the spread of the virus to avoid another lockdown. Children under 12 will not need to show proof of vaccination for entry into an establishment.

"This is a commonsense, logical approach. We've been very much in favor of life going on," Blangiardi said.

But Hawaii's House minority leader, Republican state Representative Val Okimoto, is critical of the mayor's plan.

"Common sense tells me that if you implement a policy that segregates the vaccinated with the unvaccinated, we're inadvertently incentivizing the unvaccinated community to gather and spread COVID within their own communities," Okimoto said.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

COVID-19 Vaccination Proof Restaurant Sign
Honolulu is joining New York and San Francisco in requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination for certain activities. Above, a sign at a restaurant in New York's Upper West Side on August 17, 2021, the first day where you had to show proof of having a COVID-19 vaccination to participate in indoor dining. Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images

Before the Fourth of July, Hawaii had a seven-day average of 46 daily cases. On Monday, that figure hit 874.

With Safe Access Oahu, Honolulu also joins New Orleans and the U.S. territory of Guam, which have implemented similar requirements.

Employees of the establishments will have to show proof of vaccination or undergo weekly testing, Blangiardi said. He said businesses that don't comply could be fined or potentially shut down.

In Honolulu County, 85 percent of the eligible population 12 and older has had at least one dose of vaccine. Blangiardi said he hopes the remainder of residents will get vaccinated.

Greg Maples, the chairman of the Hawaii Restaurant Association, said his organization endorsed the new program because it needs the coronavirus to stop spreading.

"Don't stop eating in restaurants. We need you. We need the business," said Maples, who suggested unvaccinated people order take-out instead.

The program will remain in effect for 60 days. If the city doesn't see an improvement, Blangiardi said it will move on to mandatory vaccinations.

Okimoto said the program was doubling down on the idea that "government knows best."

The mayor said he's concerned about hospitals being overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, noting the remote island state had limited oxygen supplies, medical staff and beds.

"This notion of people who choose not to get vaccinated and say, 'It's my right under these circumstances, but if I get sick, you got to take care of me.' I don't understand that logic and that's not what's going to work," Blangiardi said.

Earlier Monday, Lt. Gov. Josh Green, who is also an emergency room doctor, said the state's hospitals can handle a combined 500 COVID-19 patients and perhaps 710 if they stretch their resources to the limit. But at these levels, doctors might have to begin thinking about rationing care, he told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser's online Spotlight interview program.

There were 418 COVID-19 patients in hospitals statewide on Monday, a number that has remained relatively steady for the last week, though it is one-third higher than one month ago, Green said.

People Walking in Honolulu, Hawaii
Honolulu is joining New York and San Francisco in requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination for certain activities. Above, people walk past Waikiki restaurants and shops in Honolulu on August 24, 2021. Caleb Jones/AP Photo