KHON2 (HONOLULU) — Maui Mayor Michael Victorino was the first in the state to propose the addition of a COVID-19 booster for those eligible in order to be considered fully vaccinated.
An official announcement from Gov. David Ige to add a coronavirus booster shot to Safe Travels Hawaii is still anticipated, but Maui is just days away from adding a booster to their Safer Outside program.
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Starting on Jan. 24, the COVID-19 booster shot will be a part of Maui’s Safer Outside program — it is a county program that requires businesses such as bars, gyms and restaurants to verify proof of vaccination.
For some operators, the changing rules are becoming a challenge to keep up with. Javier Barberi, the co-owner of Mala Tavern on Maui, said visitors are often confused and even take issue with the vaccination requirement.
“We’re doing our best to not get frustrated during this process because we’re having to deal with very impatient customers and staff that is constantly hearing a new message every couple of months,” Barberi said. “Their job is constantly changing.”
Victorino introduced the change amid the high transmission of COVID-19 cases in the county and the state. He has also spoken in support of adding a coronavirus booster requirement to Safe Travels Hawaii.
Part of a statement from Victorino said:
“Earlier this month, I asked Gov. Ige to consider revising Safe Travels Hawaii to require travelers to show proof of a booster shot. My suggestion came after a November announcement by the Hawaii Department of Health that CDC data demonstrated vaccine immunity weakens over time and booster shots can re-energize immunity.”
Hawaii County’s Mayor Mitch Roth has also shown support in adding a COVID-19 booster to Safe Travels. The county’s Communications Director Cyrus Johnasen said they would like to see additional layers of protection.
Johnasen said, “Definitely pre-testing for all passengers. Trans-Pacific is something that we are supportive of, and that we’ve voiced up the chain of command to the governor.”
According to Johnasen, Big Island is not considering required proof of vaccination for gyms or restaurants, but he said the county is working on a public-private partnership to help businesses have rapid coronavirus tests handy.
“The tests are going to be individual rapid tests given to employees prior to their travels,” Johnasen said. “Upon return, those employees will then go ahead and have to take that test within 24 hours of returning to the workplace.”
Get more coronavirus news: COVID vaccines, boosters and Safe Travels information
Officials have said changes to Safe Travels Hawaii are expected to take effect sometime in late February 2022.