The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa is working to contain an apparent COVID-19 virus cluster in on-campus student housing. Seven student residents from three different buildings have tested positive since Thursday, February 25. The contact tracing process has identified three close contacts, who are also student residents, and determined that eight of the ten students involved are connected and have been in social contact with each other. The Hawaiʻi Department of Health (DOH) is also investigating.
The 10 students (7 positive and 3 close contacts) have been temporarily moved off campus to isolate and be monitored and cared for. Six of the seven who tested positive have no in-person classes this semester. The seventh has a hybrid course, but health officials determined that they were infected after the last time the class met in-person.
All of the rooms involved have been closed, and building common areas cleaned and disinfected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and university COVID-19 guidelines. The campus community has been notified, and the occupants of the affected buildings have been reminded to remain vigilant.
Positive cases on the Mānoa campus are reported to and investigated by the campus COVID-19 Resource Team, a group of healthcare professionals. The team is responsible for the contact tracing process and identifying areas on campus that have to be closed due to possible exposure. The contact tracing process is more effective in a university environment because the information needed (building occupants and employees, class members and faculty, etc.) is readily available.
UH Mānoa also recently began surveillance testing student residents and employees in residence halls during the past month, with about 50 randomly selected, asymptomatic students and employees tested each week, with no positive results thus far. The COVID-19 Resource Team will be consulted regarding any appropriate modifications to surveillance testing protocols.
When the pandemic started in 2020, the UH 10-campus system took a number of actions, including instituting mandatory requirements, that have successfully prevented spread of the virus:
- The majority of courses are taught online, the majority of employees are teleworking, and capacity at student housing was reduced by about 50 percent, which greatly reduced the number of people on campus
- UH campuses are closed to the public
- Visitors are not allowed in student housing, and student residents are not permitted to visit a hall in which they do not reside
- UH students, employees and campus visitors are required to use UHʻs daily health check-in app and receive clearance before coming to campus or leaving a room in student housing in the morning
- Face coverings are mandatory on campus, indoors and outdoors
- Safe physical distancing is mandatory while on campus
- Campus buildings and facilities, including student housing, are cleaned and disinfected daily, as recommended by the CDC and university COVID-19 guidelines. High touch areas such as door handles and elevator buttons are cleaned multiple times a day
- When a student resident tests positive, they are moved off campus, their room is closed, and the elevators, restrooms and common areas where they lived are cleaned and disinfected, as recommended by the CDC and university COVID-19 guidelines
- Campuswide notification is issued in a timely manner when a positive case is reported on campus
- Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 is not allowed to return to campus until they are cleared by a medical provider consistent with the standards of DOH and the CDC
Since April 2020, there have been 92 reported cases of COVID-19 on UH’s 10 campuses, 61 at UH Mānoa, the system’s largest campus. Among those, 25 have been students who live on the Mānoa campus with 14 reported cases in fall 2020 and 11 cases so far in spring 2021. There are about 1,400 students living on campus, about 50 percent below full capacity.