HONOLULU (KHON2) — A new requirement could be coming to the Safe Access Oahu program. Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi said adding COVID-19 booster shots is under consideration, but what could that mean for businesses and customers?
Currently, dine-in restaurants, gyms and theaters require customers to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative coronavirus test taken within 48 hours.
“The overriding recommendation is if you are eligible to get a booster, get a booster,” said Blangiardi. “Whether or not we make it part of Safe Access Oahu — tied to Feb. 18 is still something we are evaluating.”
According to the Hawaii Department of Health, 32% of Oahu residents are boosted.
Meanwhile, the Hawaii Restaurant Association (HRA) said the industry has been one of the hardest hit and is the most restricted. Now, with talks about the booster shot possibly being added to Safe Access Oahu, some are worried about how it will impact staffing and revenue.
“We’re cutting our menus, we’re changing our hours of operation, there’s restaurants that are staying closed Tuesdays and Sundays now,” said Greg Maples, chairman of the Hawaii Restaurant Association.
The omicron surge has only made matters worse with employees calling out sick or getting exposed to COVID-19, which is drastically cutting down available staffing and resources.
While HRA respects and applauds Mayor Blangiardi’s leadership throughout the pandemic, they said they are just worried this will drive away customers and workers.
Meanwhile, some restaurants like Giovanni Pastrami are getting ahead of official announcements.
“We began tracking who is getting a booster shot,” said Ryan Tanaka of Giovanni Pastrami. “Now that they know that we’re tracking it, it encourages them. We will begin adding incentives also so that they’re further motivated to get their booster.”
Implementing the booster for Safe Access Oahu would also impact other establishments like bars, gyms and theaters. Hawaii Theatre Center said boosters are something it was already considering.
“We’ve had several of the artists that we have on the schedule that have asked us to implement additional controls,” said Gregory Dunn, president and CEO of Hawaii Theatre Center. “We’ve had a local group that’s coming up in February that is already getting ahead of the curve and saying they would like to require the booster as being required for entry to the shows.”
Whatever Mayor Blangiardi decides, businesses and establishments hope it will lead to returning to normal soon.
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“We’ve shown that we can hold the show safely in a masked environment and we want to get back to having shows, but we have to have them at full capacity in order for it to make financial sense,” Dunn said.