The following are guidelines for external communications for positive COVID-19 cases of a UH student and/or UH employee, or a presumptive positive case of COVID-19 of a UH student and/or UH employee. These are for cases where the individual(s) were on campus within 14 days of being diagnosed with a positive test. External communication includes, but is not limited to, emails sent to the respective campus community by campus leadership. Other forms of communication include social media, web posts and news releases.

These are only guidelines, and each campus must have the ability to promptly respond to any unique situation where communication actions have to be taken that are counter to the communications protocols in the Institutional Safety Practices section of the UH COVID-19 Guidelines.

Hawaiʻi State Department of Health

The Hawaiʻi State Department of Health (DOH) is the state agency responsible for the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and is the official source for information relating to daily new cases and existing cases. DOH is also responsible for contact tracing, a key part of the state’s test-trace-isolate strategy in slowing and preventing the spread of COVID-19.

When possible, DOH should be involved in any external announcements related to COVID-19 or, at least, kept informed and notified prior to release. Also, please contact the UH Office of Communications as early as possible by emailing COVID19@hawaii.edu, as the office is responsible for reporting and publicly posting all positive cases of COVID-19 on UH campuses and responding to media inquiries.

Available Information

Individual privacy interests, as well as federal laws regarding health (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)) and student information (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)) require that campuses limit what identifying information can be released externally, even if there is a confirmed positive case.

The university will not disclose the identity of any employee or student who is diagnosed with or is suspected of having COVID-19 in any external communication. Internally, that information will only be provided on a need-to-know basis as part of any contact investigation.

Any university closures or any restrictions in place to limit COVID-19 exposure, e.g., limited hours of operation, may be communicated in a manner that balances privacy with health and safety interests.

When to release an external communication

  • You have a confirmed positive case for a person who has been on campus.
  • You have persistent rumors going around campus that are disrupting operations.

When NOT to release an external communication

  • A suspected case involving an employee or student who has not been on campus while infected, e.g., a fully online student reports a positive test and has not been on campus within the 14 day incubation period.
  • If a person is self-isolating because they have come into contact with an infected person and they have not yet been tested or have not received a positive test result.

Information to be included in all messaging

  • UH strictly follows all privacy and confidentiality laws, including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), and will not disclose any personal information.
  • Contact information where a positive case or suspected case can be reported.
  • Standard COVID-19 prevention tips:
    • Isolate yourself and contact a healthcare provider if you start to experience symptoms and/or come into close contact with someone who tested positive; close contact is being within 6 feet of a person with COVID-19 for 15 minutes or more, even while wearing face masks.
    • Follow UH health and safety protocols:
      • wear your face covering in public
      • practice physical distancing
      • wash your hands often
      • stay home when you are sick
Last modified: October 16, 2020