Honolulu first responders will have to get tested for COVID twice after returning from the mainland

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Honolulu first responders will have to get tested twice upon return if they travel out of state, even if they’re fully vaccinated. Otherwise they’ll have to quarantine for 10 days. Mayor Rick Blangiardi issued the travel guidelines set to begin on Friday.

Several unions tell KHON2 that Honolulu first responders who travel out of state will have to take a COVID test one day after they return, and a second test four days after returning. They will be allowed to work if the results are negative. Otherwise they go on quarantine.

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Some workers point out that Honolulu residents in general as well as visitors aren’t required to take the extra precautions when they travel. Unions say members are generally okay with the guidelines, in part, because an earlier proposal required them to stay on leave until the second test results show they are negative.

“Earlier on it was an issue when our members had to stay out of work for so many days until they took the second test. So they had to stay out of work, use their own leave time,” said Bobby Lee, president of the Hawaii Fire Fighters Association.

He points out that members have more of a problem with the requirement that workers have to ask for permission to go out of state on vacation.

“We clearly disagree with that. When our members are on their own personal vacation, the employer doesn’t cover them or protect them for anything,” he said.

Lee says all state workers are also required to ask for permission, and the union is filing a grievance. However, the state points out that it’s an extra layer of protection that the state needs.

“We’re asking the state to work together and see if we can get the numbers down. That’s the main objective, and get the numbers down so we protect our hospitals, which is our primary asset right now,” said Curt Otaguro, Hawaii State Comptroller.

A city spokesman sent a statement saying, “The City saw an increased number of travel associated COVID-19 cases amongst our workforce over the past several months and decided this policy was necessary after consulting with the City’s health experts.”

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The spokesman adds that there are separate guidelines for first responders because they generally cannot telework, and the city must sustain essential operations.

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