The University of Hawaii, which already planned for mostly online instruction this fall, asked faculty and students today to reduce in-person coursework as much as possible given the rise in COVID-19 cases.
“Due to deteriorating conditions with the pandemic in Hawaii and especially on Oahu, we will be moving even more strongly to reduce all presence on our campus at the start of the fall semester, which will still begin on Aug. 24,” UH President David Lassner said at a news conference this afternoon.
“We are committed to do the essential work of the university across the state, but in a safe manner and with as little presence as possible to get that work done,” he said at the news conference.
In an email to the university community earlier today, Lassner advised faculty to assess the portions of their courses that were scheduled on campus to see if they could be shifted to distance learning. And he asked students to review and revise their schedules to take as many online courses as they can while staying on track for their academic goals and on-time degree completion.
“I want to emphasize we are fully committed to help our students get through and maintain their progress toward their degrees,” he said. Students who have questions should contact their advisor on their home campus.
The only UH classes that start this fall with any in-person instruction should be those that really need it, such as clinical experiences, science labs, art studios and career and technical education workshops, Lassner wrote. All such classes will follow local, state and national guidelines for COVID-19 prevention, including physical distancing, facial coverings and cleaning/sanitizing.
The university had expected to use technology extensively in any case this semester and most courses had already shifted online. It also had reduced the number of employees on campus by staggering their presence in offices and enabling many to work from home.
“Unfortunately, during these last weeks Hawaii has seen a dramatic increase in the number of COVID-19 cases reported, particularly on Oahu,” Lassner wrote. “In addition to the case numbers and a number of emergent hotspots, most alarmingly, last Friday two major hospitals reported that their Intensive Care Units (ICUs) were at or near capacity. UH is therefore announcing the maximal reduction of unnecessary presence on our campuses.”
He urged everyone to do what they can to prevent the spread of the coronavirus by staying home if they have any symptoms, washing hands and wearing face coverings.
“More information will be forthcoming about daily online check-ins via a new UH app or website,” he wrote in the email.