Purpose and Scope
As the sole provider of public higher education in Hawaiʻi, the University of Hawaiʻi 10 campus system is committed to improving the social, economic, and environmental well-being of current and future generations. University programming and opportunities include learning, working, and living (for some) in settings deemed higher risk for becoming infected with and/or transmitting the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. Because university activities themselves involve higher risk situations including student housing (congregate living), athletics, space-constrained classrooms, and certain types of learning and work settings, UH along with the other institutions of higher education closed campuses in Spring 2020. After more than a year in isolation and quarantine, we look forward to resuming the in-person learning, working, cultural, and social activities, including sporting events, for our students, employees, and our community.
The university continues to be proactive and agile in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic across programs, schools, and campuses. These guidelines provide our policy on vaccination, based on the vaccines currently authorized under the Emergency Use Authorization. The guidelines in this document help ensure healthy and safe campuses as we return to a higher percentage of in-person learning over the Fall 2021 semester, and return to a more “normal” Spring 2022 semester. These guidelines balance the safety of our UH employees, students, off-campus training sites, and the public with the need to resume more in-person learning, which requires physical distancing of 3 feet. A survey of UH employees at the end of June 2021 showed that of the 5,938 responses, more than 95% have been vaccinated or are planning to be. Employees on all campuses report 91% or more fully vaccinated. A student survey done at the same time reported 85% of participants were already vaccinated and an additional 7% intended to be vaccinated. As of July 13, 2021, 58.8% of Hawaiʻi’s total population is fully vaccinated (68.8% of those eligible age 12 or older). In persons 40 years or older, 68% to 95% are fully vaccinated. For those age 18-29, 51% are fully vaccinated, with an additional 8% waiting for their second dose. Recent scientific evidence from studies conducted in K-12 settings in states with lower vaccination rates than Hawaiʻi showed that when students, teachers, and staff are masked indoors, how much distance is maintained between people does not matter. All of this is good news for Hawaiʻi and UH and gives us confidence that adhering to the interim guidance will be effective in keeping us safe.
Please note: these Guidelines are interim only and are subject to revision
These Guidelines apply to all university operations (except where noted), activities on the university’s campuses and at off-campus facilities (“onsite” or “facility/ies”), and all students, employees, and visitors to university facilities. External parties that are granted permission to share or use University facilities shall also follow these guidelines. Based on these Guidelines, each campus will develop its own operational plan that takes into consideration its unique location, facilities, program needs, and available resources.
All campuses will closely monitor their local conditions and surroundings. They will be prepared to alter operations and services in a timely and appropriate manner in response to COVID-related situations or circumstances. Additionally, UH continues to work closely with county and state officials to operate in accordance with government orders, recommendations from the Hawaiʻi Department of Health (HDOH), and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Guidelines.
These guidelines are based on a few key assumptions and will continue to be updated as conditions change throughout the 2021-22 school year.
- COVID-19 will not be eliminated and there will always be cases in our communities.
- COVID-19 variants of interest and variants of concern are the predominant strains circulating in Hawaiʻi as of July 12, 2021 (PDF). Almost all persons now being hospitalized are those unvaccinated. As more trans-Pacific travel occurs, we will likely see more variants that are highly contagious, including the Delta variant.
- Every COVID-19 case cannot be prevented; thus, the focus is on mitigating risk and managing the spread of the disease.
- The CDC has stated that currently authorized vaccines in the United States are highly effective at protecting vaccinated people against symptomatic and severe COVID-19 and cites a growing body of evidence that fully vaccinated people are less likely to have an asymptomatic infection or transmit SARS-CoV-2 to others. Additionally, the vaccines currently in use in the United States are effective in reducing transmission, hospitalization, and severe illness from COVID-19 caused by the common circulating and the more contagious Delta variant strains.
- Recent CDC recommendations state that all individuals, including fully vaccinated individuals need to be wearing masks and physical distancing in indoor and crowded outdoor settings, in addition to where required by Federal, state, local, tribal or territorial laws, rules and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance (i.e., healthcare or very crowded settings or venues). Local regulations will change based on the burden of COVID-19 in the community and the number of persons vaccinated in a community.
- Mandating the COVID-19 vaccine for students (with exemptions made for medical or religious reasons) will allow students to return to learning and work in a much safer environment, and will greatly reduce the incidence and spread of the disease in our island communities.
- In the meantime, knowing vaccination is readily available to those 12 and older and that UH is participating in President Biden’s COVID-19 College Vaccination challenge; to get as many people on campus fully vaccinated, these interim COVID-19 guidelines have been approved by the DOH for UH operations.