This message from University of Hawaiʻi President David Lassner was shared with students, faculty and staff of the 10-campus UH system on January 18, 2022.
Spring 2022 courses that were shifted online for the first two weeks of the semester will remain online for one more week and return to their originally scheduled course delivery mode (in-person or hybrid) on Monday, January 31.
On December 28, we announced that many courses were moved online because of the surge in COVID-19 cases due to the Omicron variant. While we are cautiously optimistic that COVID-19 hospitalizations in Hawaiʻi are starting to plateau, we experienced the highest case count of the pandemic today, and believe that it is prudent to allow the online shift to continue for one extra week. We do not expect to revisit the January 31 restart date, which is consistent with many other higher education institutions.
We urge you to use this additional week as an opportunity to get your booster shot if you are eligible. Booster shots are widely available at pharmacies throughout the state, and administrative leave is available for employees. Per the most recent CDC guidance, getting a booster to bring your vaccination status “up to date,” is the only way to avoid quarantine if you are exposed. The CDC has stated that you are considered to be up-to-date immediately upon receiving the booster shot, which has proven effective in reducing transmission, hospitalizations and deaths.
All classes presently meeting in-person should continue to do so. Essential programs and services for students and employees will continue to be accessible in-person as well as online. Faculty who are teaching classes online now that are scheduled to meet in person can opt to begin in-person instruction on January 24, with no formal approval required. However, these faculty need to contact their students as soon as possible to provide information about how students who cannot attend class or may have delayed their return to campus can participate.
Our COVID-19 advisory team of UH medical and public health professionals with campus leaders from across the system considered this decision very carefully. We believe that Hawaiʻi is at a turning point as the COVID-19 pandemic moves toward endemicity, and we learn to live with the virus. For most of us, this change is ultimately a welcome step forward. However, this transition is also causing anxiety and requires adjustment for many in our community.
We believe that providing this clear direction of our plan for one additional week online, while urging that everyone eligible get their booster shot, will best move us all forward together.
Even as Hawaiʻi sees record numbers of positive cases, the state’s hospitalization rates are thankfully remaining manageable. UH’s 10 campuses have extremely high vaccination rates among students and employees, which can now be tracked on the UH COVID-19 dashboards.
The requirements for vaccination, soon to include booster shots for future semesters, or regular testing for those with approved exemptions, along with the updated UH COVID-19 Guidelines will create a safe environment for our students, faculty and staff. Our guidelines include mandatory face masks when indoors and daily health screenings via the LumiSight UH app.
Please continue to monitor your hawaii.edu email for more information from your campus and the system. Send your questions to COVID19@hawaii.edu and please include your home campus, which will expedite the response time.
We have persevered through this unprecedented health crisis for nearly two years now. We can now foresee moving past COVID-19 as a university-wide health crisis in 2022. We have learned through this pandemic, and no doubt more lessons are ahead. But we can finally look forward to the time in our near future where we can really be together again.
E mālama pono,