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Hawaii hotel leaders, union push for vaccine eligibility

HONOLULU — Hawaii hotel leaders and a hotel workers union are urging the state to designate hospitality workers as frontline essential workers.

The state Department of Health has said that most hotel workers will have to wait a little longer to be vaccinated, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Thursday.

Hawaii Department of Health spokesman Brooks Baehr said the state has classified most hotel workers in category 1C. That category includes adults age 65 to 74 years, people ages 16 to 64 years-old with high-risk medical conditions and workers who are essential, but are not deemed frontline essential.

“Are our visitor industry hotel hospitality workers very important to us in Hawaii? Absolutely, and that’s why we are eager to get them vaccinated. They are vital to our economy,” Baehr said. “But frankly, we can survive, not forever without them, but day to day you can get by without the bellhop. You can get by without the valet. You can park your own car and carry your own bag.”

Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association President and CEO Mufi Hannemann said most of the industry’s workers have not yet been vaccinated and deserve to be.

Hawaii hotels have made a commitment to the state that they will house coronavirus patients who do not need to be hospitalized, Hannemann said.

Hawaii hotels have housed critical health care workers, first responders and military personnel, he said.

Hannemann said he has twice asked Gov. David Ige, a Democrat, to consider assigning hotel workers a higher vaccination priority.

Unite Here Local 5, a union that represents about 8,000 hotel workers, issued a statement Monday asking Hawaii to prioritize “hospitality workers for inclusion in the next phase of vaccination roll out, as they are essential workers who welcome both global and domestic travelers — including guests who are required to quarantine by the state, or have tested positive for COVID-19.”

  1. Mike March 6, 2021 10:09 pm Reply

    How predictable. First Hannemann and crowd exert their political muscle to cajole Kauai back into the Unsafe Travels program, endangering many over the age of 65 and those with risky healthy conditions, all so that business and their employees can make money….and then once they have achieved that goal they cry about how dangerous it is to have only single-tested tourists around and demand that they be put in the vaccination line of the very people their business interests have put at risk. No Mufi, not your workers, but those 65+ and those with health conditions. Lots of talk about freedom of choice, so if businesses and the people want to get back to work, then they can choose to take on the risk associated with doing so. Wait your turn. Everyone deserves to be vaccinated, but those at higher risk should go first!

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