Hawaii residents vaccinated in the state soon will be able to use an electronic pass to show proof of vaccination, Gov. David Ige said Wednesday.

The electronic Hawaii Smart Health Card system will launch Friday and will be available to people who have had two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or one dose of Johnson and Johnson, followed by a 14-day waiting period, Ige announced.

People will be able to download a code showing proof of vaccination onto their mobile phone, said Doug Murdock, Hawaii’s chief information officer who heads the Hawaii Office of Enterprise Technology Services.

The electronic card’s launch comes as Honolulu and Maui counties are poised to effect mandates requiring customers of certain businesses to show proof of vaccination. The Maui mandate applies mainly to people eating inside bars and restaurants, while the Honolulu law covers a range of additional entertainment and recreational venues, including theaters and gyms.

Doug Murdock, Hawaii's Chief Information Officer
Doug Murdock, Hawaii’s chief information officer, said during a news conference that a new electronic health pass system should be able to verify Covid-19 vaccination information in minutes. Office of the Governor of Hawaii

Honolulu’s mandate goes into effect Monday and Maui’s two days later.

Ige stressed that the state’s electronic pass is meant to make it easier for people to comply with the county mandates and isn’t required. People still will be able to use paper vaccine cards as proof of vaccination under county programs, Ige said.

Ige called the electronic pass a “convenient option to show vaccination status in a digital device instead of a card.”

“It is strictly a convenience,” he said.

The announcement comes as Hawaii continues to see a high number of Covid-19 cases. Even though there are signs that the worst is over, Hawaii is still in a precarious position, Ige said.

“Our hospitals are full and stretched to the limit,” he said.

Hawaii reported just 380 new coronavirus cases Wednesday, a 20% drop from the previous day.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green said on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Spotlight program that part of the reason might be that there were fewer Covid-19 tests done over the Labor Day weekend.

“A lot of testing sites were less available or people didn’t go out for tests because we asked people to stay in,” Green said.

Cases Might Have Plateaued

Green said Covid cases have plateaued but noted that the test positivity rate for Covid hasn’t dropped. The rate was 7.2% Wednesday, compared with 7.1% the previous day. It remains to be seen whether there might still be a Covid holiday surge, he said.

“We are certainly on Covid tsunami watch from the Labor Day weekend,” Green said. “We are optimistic here in my office because we have not seen gigantic numbers persist.”

Whether the Honolulu and Maui mandates can further tamp down cases is far from clear, but, as Murdock described it, the electronic pass could make it much easier for residents to deal with the burden of showing proof of vaccination.

To obtain a pass, people will have to create a Safe Travels Hawaii account and provide vaccination information, including the type of vaccine administered, dose dates and lot numbers.

The system will generate a QR code that can be used as a pass. Additionally, as an added convenience, businesses that choose to do so will be able to scan codes with an app, Murdock said.

Eventually, he said, the state hopes to be able to create electronic passes for people who have chosen to receive a negative Covid-19 test rather than a vaccination, Murdock said.

The system was created according to a national standard that is the same as systems being used in California and New York, Murdock said. However, only persons who received vaccines in Hawaii will be able to use the electronic pass, he said.

Murdock said the system will not be able to verify certain tests, such as those given by the federal Department of Defense, but he said for most others, the system should verify tests and provide a code quickly.

“It should only take a few seconds to get verified,” he said.

Civil Beat reporter Anita Hofschneider contributed to this report.

Not a subscription

Civil Beat is a small nonprofit newsroom, and we’re committed to a paywall-free website and subscription-free content because we believe in journalism as a public service.
 
That’s why donations from readers like you are essential to our continued existence.
 
Help keep our journalism free for all readers by becoming a monthly member of Civil Beat today.

About the Author