HONOLULU (KHON2) — Oahu government workers who were able to work from home during the first lockdown aren’t allowed to this time around. That is according to the head of their union, who says there is no good reason for it because it goes against the goal of stopping the spread of COVID-19.

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The head of the Hawaii Government Employees Association (HGEA) says he is just as confused as everyone else as to why the workers are not allowed to telework this time around. Many of those who were considered nonessential back in March are now deemed essential.

“What was the case a few months ago now is not the case, and that all government workers are effectively deemed essential and they’re all being asked to report to work unless told otherwise,” said Randy Perreira, Executive Director of HGEA.

It’s not clear how many Oahu State and City workers are eligible to work from home. The directors for each department make that determination. Perreira says this is needlessly endangering the health of the workers and their families. A Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs worker tested positive for COVID-19 on Aug. 26.

“If the idea is to limit movement, if the idea is to limit interactions and to limit the physical presence of individuals in work spaces, you would think that you would try to get as many people to just hunker down at home as possible,” said Perreira.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said, “As we fight this war, we get answers. And we find out that some of the folks that initially were deemed nonessential we know are essential in a pandemic setting.”

But what exactly has changed, and how many more employees will be required to be in the office? We never got an answer.

We also asked the Governor’s office which released a statement saying, “State employees are considered ‘critical infrastructure’ employees and are thus exempt from the recent Stay-at-Home/Work-from-Home order… However, Governor Ige has urged all departments to consider expanded use of telework to help increase physical distancing in state offices.”

Perreira points out that the state and city should have more people working from home now than back in March. He says some departments have embraced the concept but others are still struggling.

“There’s a lot of finger pointing between agencies, people blaming the Department of Health about not providing guidance. Ultimately though, you would think that after five months they’d get their act together a little bit better than they have today,” he said.

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