Chancellor’s weekly update on countdown to open for fall semester: Testing and tracing, physical distancing, hybrid learning, budget

July 20, 2020, Update: Countdown to Fall 2020: 36 days remaining until fall semester begins.

Aloha Kākou,

Bonnie Irwin
Bonnie Irwin

This afternoon, Vice Chancellor Farrah-Marie Gomes and Vice Chancellor Kalei Rapoza join me in a virtual meeting with Mayor Harry Kim to gain clarity on quarantine expectations for our out-of-state students. We are also having a Brown Bag with University Leadership for students and parents on July 21 at noon because we are understandably receiving many questions from them as the fall semester draws nearer. I share with you our Quarantine FAQs page that was sent to students and parents last week that addresses some of their concerns.

We are still awaiting a budget from Governor David Ige and finalization of a health check-in app from the UH System. Meanwhile, we continue to prepare for fall on a number of fronts, as you will see below. My thanks and appreciation to all the teams and to the faculty who have been participating in the online/hybrid instruction training sessions. I am grateful for your dedication to our university and our students.

Testing and Tracing (Carolyn Ma, convener)

Screening app: Specific to UH Hilo, discussion on a Point of Contact for submissions for follow up continues. A list of Hawai‘i County hospitals, emergency rooms, urgent care and other facilities was provided so a link appears on the app.

Testing: UH System has been given the exemption to allow returning non-resident students to test out of quarantine and to attend UH-held activities. Thus far this exemption does not apply to our island. A proposal to Hawai‘i County will be made this week for on-site testing of our returning non-resident students prior to move-in to the residence halls and start of instruction. Testing dates have been proposed and we are awaiting confirmation. In addition, DoH may help with testing depending upon demand on other islands and current outbreak numbers.

The concerns of cost to the student have been addressed and the student will not bear the cost of the test or processing. Costs not covered by student insurance will be donated by the testing group, clinical labs, Hawai‘i Department of Health (DoH), or if necessary, a request to Hawai‘i County.

In the event of identified cases, DoH and Hawai‘i County Health Office actively monitors and follows through with contact tracing, release date of quarantine and/or progression to an active case.

Contact Tracing: We are configuring a position as the lead or point of contact (POC) to work as part of the DoH Medical Reserve Corps. Duties include conducting contract tracing on behalf of DoH for campus cases, serve as the UH Hilo/Hawai‘i Community College Point of Contact for questions from the community, conduct education to both campuses and act as the liaison to the various COVID-19 campus committees. Additional support for contact tracing will be provided by the Hawai‘i County Health Office and DoH.

Academic and Student Support (Farrah-Marie Gomes, convener)

Our StudentLingo website is now live. UH Hilo faculty, staff and students have access to 50 student success videos that you are welcome to incorporate into your curriculum. Additional information about this resource will be sent in a separate email. You may begin previewing the short videos by going to

Several Student Affairs offices have started to make adjustments to their office and meeting spaces to ensure that staff are able to safely meet in person with students. You may see some offices with dual monitors set up 6 feet apart from each other, while other offices will be using AppleTV or screen sharing features to replace staff and students sitting next to each other in appointments. Work in this area will continue through the start of the semester as we await additional orders to arrive and as staff determine what situations will be most efficient for their individual programs and services.

Physical Distancing (Kalei Rapoza, convener)

Please Kokua sign: 6 feet aprt, Practive Social Distancing, Wear face covering, sanitize hands, seating arranged to promote physical distancing, do not move furniture, stay home if you are feeling sick.The Physical Distancing workgroup is identifying signage for campus to serve as reminders about maintaining physical distancing, leaving seats free in classrooms, wearing face coverings while on campus, and staying home if not feeling well. We are working with Graphics Services to develop and produce the signs.

These are two samples (at right, click to enlarge).

The workgroup is also reviewing areas on campus to clear certain walkways and breezeways to promote the flow of foot traffic and reduce areas for people to congregate. Signage to this effect will be strategically placed around campus.

Please wait here with graphic illustration of rubber slippers, words: 6 feet apart, support physical distancing.In addition, we will be limiting seating areas on campus by either spacing out moveable chairs and tables, reducing the number of chairs at tables, or placing reminder signs for occupancy at those tables where seating cannot be adjusted.

Online and Hybrid Learning (Joseph Sanchez, convener)

This workgroup is developing test proctoring option with the Testing Center, purchasing equipment and software based on faculty recommendations, and providing DL training and certification for faculty.

Fall Course Schedule

Course conversions for Fall 2020 are nearly complete and can be tracked on the conversion website. There may be some additional courses moving to completely online teaching as faculty with children adjust to match public school schedules being released this week. Faculty that need to adjust their schedules should request an accommodation from their Dean as soon as they find out which of their courses are conflicted. We hope to be finished with all course conversions sometime next week. A message was sent to students last week about how to decide whether to attend UH Hilo this fall in person or via distance learning.

Deans will be meeting to reallocate teaching resources from areas with little student demand to areas of high student demand. Low-enrolled courses (<10 students) may be cancelled or deferred until Spring 2021 if they are not required to keep students on their degree path. Students will be notified of any cancellations. New sections of courses with large waitlists will be opened in the next 1-2 weeks to meet student demand. Students who need or want into a closed course should be on the waitlist.


The UH Board of Regents deferred action on the budget resolution to allow for more consideration and discussion. One of the goals of the resolution is to impress upon the university community the severity of the situation and to give the UH System maximum flexibility in dealing with any restrictions the state might impose upon us.

Strategic Doing

The Relationships and Importance of Place Doing Committees have meetings scheduled this week. Members will bring more perspectives and ideas to these groups through outreach to their networks. Please see the Strategic Doing webpage to learn more about these committees and read the meeting notes of both committees (scroll down and click on Read more about this committee’s work for each doing committee).

Importance of Wearing a Mask

Finally, I want to emphasize the importance of wearing a mask. Work by the Center for Disease Control and other organizations have shown that consistently wearing simple cloth masks significantly cuts down on both the amount of COVID-19 virus spread and the distance it is dispersed in the air and onto surfaces. I share with you this interesting article.

So please let’s all do our part to respect others as well as ourselves. Wear a mask.

Have a wonderful week, and continue to be safe and healthy!

Bonnie D. Irwin
Chancellor, University of Hawai‘i at Hilo

UH Hilo’s COVID-19 information webpage