person typing on laptop

This message was shared with the students, faculty and staff of the 10-campus University of Hawaiʻi system on August 24, 2020.

When the University of Hawaiʻi announced last spring our plans for on-campus instruction in the fall it was with the expectation of significant modifications to our environment and with full recognition that pandemic conditions not under our control might dictate changes in plans.

Unfortunately, the number of COVID-19 cases in Hawaiʻi spiked significantly. Two weeks ago I announced that conditions demanded that we maximally reduce the number of people working and studying on our 10 campuses. My directions were for:

  • instruction to move online, with the only classes to be taught wholly or partly in person being those that require students’ physical presence, such as laboratories, studios, clinical experiences and shops;
  • students to take all or as many courses online as possible; and
  • employees and supervisors to make maximal use of the COVID-19 voluntary work-from-home option when the necessary work can be done from off-campus.

Since then, the number of positive COVID-19 cases has remained high, hospital capacity has been stressed and has approached capacity, and the governor and mayors have issued new emergency orders aimed at keeping more people home and reducing the spread of the virus. These developments make the directions above even more important for UH and our ʻohana as we promote health on our campuses, within our families and across the communities of which we are an integral part.

I am writing today to give you an update on how UH continues to reduce the physical presence of employees and students on our campuses, and to urge continued focus on this effort. Faculty, advisors, schedulers and registrars have been busy making changes to courses to move every component online that does not require students to be physically present on campus. I want to acknowledge the importance of this work for creating a healthy and safe environment for instruction and learning this semester. Here is a summary to give you a sense of what each of the campuses within the UH system have accomplished.

UH Mānoa

At UH Mānoa, 86 percent of our classes are being offered fully online. Only 4 percent will be offered face-to-face. The remaining 10 percent of our classes will be delivered in a hybrid format. We have significantly reduced the density of students on campus, with the number of students in class at any time during the week being reduced to 7 percent to 15 percent of the number in prior fall semesters. We have reduced the density in our residence halls as well. With our waitlist now fully accommodated, our residence halls are at less than 50 percent of the usual capacity. Our employees will largely continue to work remotely through the fall semester, although some offices will need to work on campus in rotating shifts in order to reduce density and ensure physical distancing. Essential services to students, faculty and staff will continue in virtual or hybrid formats. These include, but are not limited to University Health Services Mānoa, student services, student advising, food services, computer labs, and Sinclair and Hamilton Libraries. Please check the relevant websites for hours, and to learn about the expanded use of online services.

UH Hilo

Unlike on Oʻahu, returning out-of-state students at UH Hilo must quarantine for 14 days under state and county guidelines. Because these students will be unable to be physically present for labs, studios or clinical placements, all UH Hilo courses will be delivered entirely online for the first two weeks of the semester. After that, those classes requiring some in-person sessions—clinicals, labs, some studios—will hold some of those sessions in person on the campus. Approximately 85 percent of courses will be fully online. See a list of fall 2020 courses with required in-person attendance here. In addition, we have reduced the density in our residence halls.

UH West Oʻahu

At UH West Oʻahu, 90 percent of fall courses are being offered in fully online formats with the remainder offered in one of the seven hybrid formats. Most of the hybrid classes will begin fully online at the start of the semester with the hope that they will be able to resume at least some portion of their face-to-face components soon. Face-to-face instruction has been minimized to accommodate clinical/technical, laboratory and/or student accommodations, and there will be no more than 10–12 students in any face-to-face session. Safety precautions are in place, and campus density has been decreased with many services offered online and employees working remotely or in rotating shifts. UH West Oʻahu will still offer essential on-campus services including access to computer labs, some library services and some student services.

UH Community Colleges

The community colleges have made every effort to move classes online to the greatest extent possible. Most classes have shifted, during early or late summer, to fully online. Some classes, even those that continue to be scheduled for face to face or hybrid instruction, have moved online for the first 2–3 weeks of the semester. Delivery of these classes will be re-assessed in September. Some programs and courses with predominantly face-to-face environments may have delayed start dates. Any on-campus activities with face-to-face learning environments or student or faculty supports will have safety precautions and social distancing in place. On-campus personnel will be minimized while still providing essential services.

Telework Policy

Last Monday, we instituted a formal Voluntary COVID-19 Telework policy that will remain in effect until further notice. The policy will take effect beginning September 1 and supports the continuation of the existing work-from-home arrangements for employees. The forms for requesting voluntary Telework arrangements and for describing an employee’s Telework plan have been updated and will need to be signed by the employee and their supervisor. Arrangements made under the previous work-from-home program will not be recognized after September 1. Employees should read the new Voluntary COVID-19 Telework Policy and obtain the new forms at the UH Human Resources website.

Daily On-line Check-in

Last Tuesday, we rolled out a new app and accompanying website for people to check their health status before coming to campus. UH ITS, working with DataHouse Consulting, developed the LumiSight UH app for general use across UH, while UH Maui College developed its own similar app over the summer. These apps are now live, and we will require everyone coming to campus to check their health status with this easy-to-use app or its companion website. The app will indicate if you are cleared to come to campus. Do not come to campus if you are ill. Specific answers to questions asked are not stored by UH, and all that UH receives is a person’s “red” or “green” status, and the fact that they checked in. This information is restricted to certain “need-to-know” individuals on each campus, such as the campus COVID-19 response leads (generally, the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs) and those responsible for campus health services operations. We encourage you to use the app even if you are not coming to campus; it provides a convenient way for you to reflect once a day on whether you are at risk for COVID-19.


Earlier this summer, the UH system and each of our campuses posted guidelines that are intended to help employees and students minimize the chance that they, their families and our community members might contract the COVID-19 virus. As we begin the new academic year, I ask that you review these guidelines to familiarize yourself with safe behavior and practices at both UH generally and any campus in our system on which you work or study. Remember to always maintain appropriate social (physical) distance, wash your hands often, and always wear a face covering on campus and elsewhere. If you are ill, stay home and contact your health care professional.

To reiterate what I shared two weeks ago. UH is essential to helping the State recover from the social and economic impacts of this pandemic and to shaping a positive future for Hawaiʻi. Your continued efforts will help maintain a safe learning and work environment for us to pursue our crucial mission of excellence in education, research and service to these islands. I want to thank all of you for the many ways that you have adapted to each new development in this pandemic. Working together, we will meet any new challenges while continuing to serve the needs of our students, employees and the people of Hawaiʻi.

E mālama pono,
David Lassner
UH President