HHSAA to take wait-and-see approach after DOE implements COVID-19 vaccine requirement for student-athletes

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HHSAA football

Thursday was supposed to mark the eve of the first sanctioned high school football season in Hawaii since 2019. Instead, it will serve as the first full day for unvaccinated student-athletes to change their eligibility status for the 2021 season after the DOE announced its COVID-19 vaccine requirement on Wednesday.

The goal for the DOE, which oversees the OIA, BIIF, MIL and KIF on Oahu, the Big Island, Maui and Kauai respectively, is to have student-athletes, athletic staffs and volunteers to be fully vaccinated by Sept. 24. From there, football games are targeted for a mid-October start.

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On Friday, a meeting will take place between the HHSAA, OIA, BIIF, MIL, KIF and ILH to discuss the next steps in holding state tournaments in the 2021-2022 academic year.

HHSAA football tournaments, which are normally wrapped up by the end of November, will likely be pushed back due to the late start. The girls’ state volleyball tournament, which typically takes place at the end of October, is likely to be pushed back as well.

“I convened a meeting on Friday, so we’re gonna talk it over with other leagues. We obviously all have to get them on the same page,” HHSAA executive director Chris Chun told KHON2 sports director Rob DeMello. “It’s gonna be hard for the private schools to make adjustments right now because I know some of them have planned tournaments with mainland teams, with those teams coming in this week and next week. We’re just gonna have to work it out, talk it out and get on the same page, find common dates and hopefully we can have a state tournament.

“There’s no set guideline on weeks on when we have to play fall sports. I mean, we can move the sports around. We can shorten seasons, we can do crossovers. We’re gonna talk about all that and what works best for all five leagues involved.”

The ILH, which consists of private schools and does not operate under the guidance of the DOE, is still exploring the possibility of hold sporting events within the conference while the rest of the DOE leagues pause, multiple sources tell KHON2.

Additionally, four-time defending HHSAA Open Division champion Saint Louis is still planning to travel to Las Vegas to take on Bishop Gorman in a nationally-ranked matchup on Aug. 20. As a team, the Crusaders have a high vaccination rate, sources tell KHON2.

As for the rest of the state, Chun says “it’s not canceled. The Department of Education gave a resumption date: Sept. 24. That’s a good thing. Go do what you gotta do now, get vaccinated so we can play, and then it’ll help out the state as well. It’ll definitely help lower the case counts where we’re at. It probably would’ve been a very difficult task to finish the season had we started on Friday anyway.

“We had three games canceled, others there were concerns about. The more kids that get vaccinated, the more families get vaccinated, the faster we’ll return to normal so hopefully this ends up being a good thing. It’s not positive, I was looking forward to seeing the first football game in two years. But hopefully we can turn it into a positive thing and we still have that target date of Sept. 24  so I can’t see them not resuming on Sept. 24, especially if you’re telling all these families to go out and get vaccinated so I’m hopeful that it turns into a positive.”

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