About 800 businesses in Hawaii are potentially affected by the new federal mandate for employee Covid-19 vaccinations announced Thursday, according to the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii.

The local data of large businesses with 100 or more employees — the class being ordered to require worker vaccinations, or face weekly testing — cited by the Chamber is from the U.S. Census Bureau.

: The 791 local businesses with 100-plus employees include 246,874 people in the Islands — about 45% of the state’s total employee count of 553,206 — although some of those already work at institutions that have mandated the vaccine, such as local banks or health care providers.

Nationally, President Joe Biden‘s sweeping order is expected to affect about 100 million people. Noncompliant businesses could be fined.

Sherry Menor-McNamara, president and CEO of Chamber of Commerce Hawaii, told Pacific Business News that the local business reaction was mixed.

“When we did a survey last month to determine how many of our members require vaccinations, it was less than a majority,” she said. “For one, most of their employees were already vaccinated, a wait-and-see approach. So now, with this new mandate, challenges for businesses.

“With that said, obviously the end goal is to get as many people to get vaccinated to protect employees as well as customers and clients, and to get our economy back on track and not be disrupted by all these variants.”

She noted there are many open questions for businesses, including how it relates to Oahu’s impending Safe Access program set to take effect Sept. 13.

“No. 1, for the test option, I believe right now the employers have to pay for all the tests. So that’s an additional cost right there,” Menor-McNamara said. “Two, an employee decides they don’t want to get the test, will they leave the company as a result, when employers are already facing a huge workforce shortage challenge? And three, as it relates to mandates as well as the Safe Access program, how will it be enforced, how will it be managed? What will be the response as we face Sept. 13 … for Safe Access?

“Then it’s all the compliance and legal issues that come with it. So a lot of moving parts,” she said.

As part of the federal mandate, employers with 100 or more employees will be required to provide paid time off for the time it takes for workers to get vaccinated or to recover if they are sick post-vaccination. Employers were already eligible to receive a tax credit for providing that time off.

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