When the pandemic hit more than two years ago, the state of Hawaii was one of the strictest regions in the U.S. – if not the world – in guarding against the transmission of COVID-19.
That mentality carried over to Hawaiian Airlines, the state’s largest private employer, as the carrier safeguarded the health of its residents by following virtually every protocol, including masks and vaccinations for employees.
Now, in what is being regarded as a significant step and a return to normalcy, Hawaiian Airlines has ended its requirement that its 7,000 employees be vaccinated. That includes 200 employees who declined to take the vaccination and went on unpaid leave from the carrier. All are eligible to return to work when the updated policy goes not effect on October 1.
Another 100 or so airline employees who resigned or were terminated for not taking the vaccine can apply to return to their job, a Hawaiian spokesperson said.
“I think we’re at this place where we’re getting back to this level of normalcy – of moving on,” Sherry Menor-McNamara, president and chief executive of the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii, told the Honolulu Civil Beat.
The move by Hawaiian Airlines could set a trend for other businesses in the state, as the carrier is believed to be the first major employer in the state to drop its vaccination mandate for workers.
“I think there’s just a general sense that people are more relaxed about it,” Menor-McNamara said.
And for the state, it’s coming at the perfect time. Hawaii has slowly but surely built its tourism numbers back up to the point where it is almost at pre-pandemic levels.
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