Coronavirus cases in Hawaii have been steadily climbing, particularly among those who haven’t gotten the COVID-19 shot.

However, a recent survey shows that a majority of Hawaii businesses are not planning to mandate vaccinations for employees.

More than half, or 57%, of the 266 businesses that responded do not plan to mandate COVID-19 shots. About 68% of survey respondents were businesses operating with fewer than 100 employees, with many under 10 employees, according to the survey conducted last week by the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii.

The question of workplace shot mandates has been top of mind in Hawaii and elsewhere in the nation because of the rapid spread of the delta variant, which is causing more Americans to fall ill with COVID-19. The recent COVID- 19 surge is threatening economic recovery and a return to normalcy.

Chamber of Commerce Hawaii President and CEO Sherry Menor-McNamara said businesses gave several reasons for hesitating to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine. A few concerns include not knowing how to implement a proper mandate, taking a wait-and-see approach, possibly losing good workers and being exposed to legal issues, she said.

Menor-McNamara said the chamber conducted the survey and held a well-attended webinar Wednesday to discuss the issues surrounding vaccine mandates. She said the chamber has not taken a position on workplace vaccine mandates, but has focused on finding ways to increase Hawaii’s vaccination rate.

“I think mandates will gain more traction as more businesses do it,” she said.

Jared Higashi, Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association vice president of government and community affairs, said his employer strongly encouraged the shot. However, he was quick to sign up, and got his first shot in March and his second in April.

“As soon as it was open for the hospitality and visitor industry, I jumped right on it,” Higashi said. “I wanted to protect my family and friends and to do the right thing on behalf of my community. Vaccination is key to reopening our economy and allowing people to resume their lives and go back to work.”

HLTA President and CEO Mufi Hannemann said the organization has been encouraging visitor industry workers and their families to get vaccinated, and campaigned to make the shots available to them quickly.

“Anecdotally, I’m hearing that 80% to 90% of the workforce for our members is vaccinated,” Hannemann said. “Efforts have been exhausted to get people vaccinated within the law. It’s that last 10% or so that need to be convinced.”

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