The University of Hawaii announced today it will temporarily move many courses at its 10 campuses online for the first two weeks of the spring semester due to the surge of COVID-19 cases in the state driven by the highly contagious omicron variant. The spring semester begins on Jan. 10.
UH joins dozens of other colleges and universities from across the nation, including the University of California, which have also opted to begin the spring semester online.
“With the explosive emergence of the omicron variant, Hawaii is experiencing another major surge in COVID-19 cases, and we have had significant clusters associated with UH as well,” said UH president David Lassner in a message today to students, faculty and staff. “Fortunately, neither UH nor our communities are experiencing the truly alarming levels of illness and hospitalizations associated with previous surges. However, the case counts are extremely worrisome and UH leadership has been in regular conversation with our internal experts and others as we have monitored the COVID-19 numbers and models.”
Only courses that can be effectively taught online will move online for the first two weeks, according to the announcement, to “maximize the safety of our campuses during the expected peak, including with those who may be returning from another island or farther.”
Many lab sections, as well as clinical experiences, Career and Technical Education shop courses and studios will continue to be taught in-person, with safety precautions in place, such as indoor masking, physical distancing and daily health screenings to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
All UH campuses, including residence halls at UH Manoa and UH Hilo, will remain open. On-campus services will also remain available during normally scheduled hours.
UH has reported a total of 315 COVID-19 cases since April 2, 2020, with 48 of them in the past 14 days, according to its dashboard. The UH Manoa campus has reported most of them, with 145, including three new COVID-19 cases today.
UH said each campus will determine which courses will be moved online based on factors including COVID-19 conditions in the area, density of students in classrooms, the number of students who will be traveling back to campus, and instructional needs to keep all students on track to graduate.
Students and employees should monitor announcements from their specific campus leaders for the latest updates.
Lassner also urged all students and employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot as soon as they are eligible, with plans underway to make booster shots part of the definition of “fully vaccinated” for the university.
Starting Jan. 3, all UH students and employees will be required to be fully vaccinated or have a university-approved medical or religious exemption to be on campus. Those with approved exemptions must regularly submit proof of a negative test. To be on campus, one must receive an all-clear from the LumiSight UH app, which requires verified vaccination information or an approved exemption and a verified negative test result when completing the daily health screening.
Face masks are required when indoors, and when outdoors near others on campus.
“We are disappointed to take this action but believe it is appropriate to protect the health and safety of our students and employees,” he said. “Based on the best information available, a full return to the published modalities of instruction for all courses on January 24, 2022 should be safe for all.”