This message was shared with the students, faculty, and staff of the 10-campus University of Hawaiʻi system on March 16, 2020.
As expected, the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve in Hawaiʻi, nationally and globally.
The good news is that even as new COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in Hawaiʻi, none are yet connected to any UH campus and none yet appear to be the result of community transmission within the state. This can change at any time as testing increases across the islands.
Most notably for us, over the weekend Hawaiʻi public schools and many private schools announced schedule changes that will impact children and parents across the state for the next few weeks if not longer.
We are conferring now on how to responsibly implement a program that provides options for employees to voluntarily work from home, while keeping offices open and ensuring continuity of operations and services. Currently, operating hours for university facilities have not changed. It may be possible for a number of UH employees to perform their duties from home on a voluntary basis. This may help to improve social distancing, especially for employees with particular vulnerabilities. It will also enable the university to follow Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations during this COVID-19 situation. Additional guidance will be provided by the end of this week.
Frequently asked questions for employees are posted on the Office of Human Resources website and will be updated as needed to keep employees apprised of HR-related information.
Additional significant updates include:
- We will be following the new federal recommendations posted by CDC today, that for the next 8 weeks, we cancel or postpone public events of 50 or more people. (We had previously used a threshold of 100 people absent any specific guidance.) We will provide an update on commencement ceremonies as soon as decisions are made.
- It was reported that internal guidance may not have been clear on procurement of supplies for disinfection and sanitizing in public areas. Over the weekend, fiscal administrators were notified that purchases of sanitizing products/supplies are acceptable purchases with institutional funds when being acquired for general use, including wiping down computers, lab workstations, library tables and public sanitizing stations.
- Many of us supervise student employees and/or graduate assistants (GAs). This is a particularly stressful time for many of them who rely on the income from their jobs. Please maintain expected hours for your student employees – they can help ensure continuity of operations and services in these difficult times. GAs are one of our employee groups that do not accrue specific hours for sick leave. So please be sure your GAs understand that, per existing UH Executive Policy, they should not come to work if they are sick or should be under quarantine and that they will absolutely not be penalized in any way for this.
To reiterate, we are not closing our campuses at this time. UH is critical to our students and the success of our state moving forward. We are hopeful that through careful mitigation and diligent personal hygienic practices Hawaiʻi can avoid the kind of total shutdown that has been necessary in other parts of the world.
Most importantly: Please be kind to others, stay home if you are sick and wash your hands regularly!
E mālama pono,