This message was shared with University of Hawaiʻi faculty, staff and students on July 23, 2021.
Aloha to our UH ʻohana. We hope your summer has been healthy and fulfilling.
Unfortunately, it should be obvious to all that COVID-19 conditions have worsened in Hawaiʻi, across the nation and globally. A new variant is exploding, and we have now seen more than a week of triple-digit numbers of new cases daily across the islands. And key COVID-19 metrics have doubled in the wrong direction over the past two weeks. Yet, we are fortunate that our conditions in Hawaiʻi are better than most of the country and we remain in Tier 5 at this time.
We have heard concerns from many of you, and our plans for return to campus this fall are being modified as follows.
Student vaccination requirement
The student vaccination requirement remains in place, with medical and religious exemptions available. The only change is that we will not administratively disenroll unvaccinated students from any face-to-face or hybrid classes, a process that would have needed to begin last week. There will be a mandatory weekly (minimum) testing protocol for any unvaccinated students on campus. We already knew some portion of our students would be unvaccinated due to religious and medical exemptions, so development of those protocols was already underway. We will share details separately.
Unvaccinated students should be aware that they may be ineligible for some employment opportunities and may be prohibited from participation in certain face-to-face educational activities (e.g. clinical and field work) and may therefore be prevented from completing educational requirements. Students who desire a full campus experience should be vaccinated. We are pleased that we do not observe the level of vaccination resistance present in other places, and we will continue to do everything we can to get our students vaccinated as we look forward to full approval by the FDA of at least one vaccine.
The previously announced requirement that all employees return to campus August 3 is rescinded and the COVID-19 Telework leave option will remain in place. We are deeply appreciative of our employees’ commitment to reopen and staff all offices during normal working hours, effective July 6, so we can provide full in-person campus-based support. This will continue to be imperative as we enjoy a substantial increase in campus activity this Fall. While the COVID-19 Telework leave option will remain available for eligible employees to request, supervisors will be expected to only approve requests that still enable staffing sufficient for full in-person support and services. We have also begun working with our unions on a non-COVID-19 telework policy, which we hope can be implemented by the end of the year.
While many concerns have been expressed about student vaccinations, our campus health conditions are driven by employee behaviors as well. As with students, our employee survey results indicate a high level of interest in vaccination, and we will soon begin discussions with our unions about an employee vaccination mandate.
Campus guidelines and LumiSight
A major update to our campus guidelines is nearly complete. It will address all of the above and more in detail, along with incorporating the latest guidance from the CDC and Hawaiʻi Dept. of Health.
The LumiSight app will continue to be an integral part of our safety program. Daily self-checks of health remain a best practice, and even the vaccinated can become infected, thankfully resulting in less severe symptoms for most people. LumiSight has already been updated to enable users to upload their vaccination card to show status, so all vaccinated students and employees should upload your vaccination information now. In addition, work is underway to integrate COVID-19 test results into LumiSight.
Importance of vaccination
The COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the U.S. have proven to be safe and effective against serious COVID-19 disease, hospitalizations and death, even as new variants have emerged. COVID-19 has become primarily a preventable pandemic of the unvaccinated in Hawaiʻi and the U.S. Unvaccinated individuals are spreading the infection to the vulnerable: children who cannot be vaccinated yet, the elderly, and those with underlying conditions such as the immune-compromised. Even as there is a small and expected percentage of “breakthrough” cases among the vaccinated, their symptoms are milder with fewer hospitalizations and deaths than for the unvaccinated. Side effects of vaccination, when they occur, are generally less serious than the impacts of being infected with COVID-19.
Getting vaccinated is unquestionably the most important step you can take to protect yourself, your family, your colleagues, your campus and your community. Vaccination is free and readily available across our islands. If you are not already vaccinated, please, please, please do so now. Vaccination site information is available at: https://health.hawaii.gov/docd/vaccines-immunizations/vaccine-locators/
As always, you may send questions to email@example.com.
E mālama pono,