Maui Coronavirus Updates

Large Employers Either Silent or Taking a Wait and See Approach to Vaccine Mandates

By Andy Gross
October 28, 2021, 12:26 PM HST
* Updated October 30, 12:30 PM
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Longs Drug Store. PC: Wendy Osher (9.15.21)

Several large employers on Maui are either silent or taking a wait and see approach when it comes to mandating COVID-19 vaccines for their employees.

On Sept. 9,  President Joe Biden announced proposed rules that all employers with more than 100 workers would require them to be vaccinated or test for the virus weekly, affecting about 80 million Americans in private sector businesses. The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration is tasked with developing the rule and issuing an Emergency Temporary Standard to implement the requirement. 

The president’s plan also applies to the roughly 17 million workers at health facilities that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid.

So far Foodland is the only local company that announced it will comply with the federal plan. Sheryl Toda, Vice President of marketing and corporate communications for Foodland Supermarkets Ltd. announced earlier this month that all Foodland employees must be vaccinated by Nov. 8. Those whose exemption requests are not accepted will be discharged by the company.

Corporate representatives from Safeway, Whole Foods Market, Walmart and Lowe’s all declined repeated attempts for comment. 

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A memo on the Walmart website, outlines vaccinations for corporate workers at the company headquarters: “Given the rise in current Delta variant of COVID-19, we have made the decision to require all market, regional and divisional associates who work in multiple facilities and all campus office associates to be vaccinated by Oct. 4, 2021, unless they have an approved exception. This includes all new hires for these locations.”

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Kayla Castenada, a corporate spokesperson for Target said, “we do not have anything specific to share yet as we await the official announcement of a federal mandate.” Castenada said Target employs approximately 500 people on Maui.

Target‘s website noted that the company’s current policy encourages team members to get vaccinated by providing all hourly team members who choose to be vaccinated with up to four hours of pay when they get the coronavirus vaccine. “We’re also working with CVS and others to offer vaccines to team members within our stores and distribution centers, as well as at our headquarters offices, whenever possible,” according to the company.

Lowe’s corporate officials did not respond to emails about the proposed federal mandate, and an assistant manger at the Lowe’s in Kahului said he could not speak on the issue.

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The US Department of Labor is in the process of developing a rule for businesses with 100 or more employees. Such a rule has not yet been finalized.

*By Andy Gross. Maui Now’s Wendy Osher contributed to this report.

Andy Gross
Andy Gross is an experienced journalist who has worked many places both abroad and in Hawaiʻi. He says he has never lost his curiosity, compassion or empathy for the people, the world and the conditions that surround him.
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