Growing concerns over the coronavirus outbreak has prompted University of Hawai‘i programs to cancel and postpone events.
For students such as Haley Woo, she was disappointed to learn that a band trip to Washington was cancelled because of it.
“Canceling the Seattle trip was disappointing but it’s better safe than sorry,” Woo, who is a freshman euphonium player in the UH Wind Ensemble, said.
The band was supposed to go on Seattle and Tacoma tour later this year, but had it canceled because of cases of COVID-19 in Washington.
Jeffrey Boeckman, director of bands, said that they started planning for the trip two years ago.
“We were so looking forward to sharing our Symphony of the Hawaiian Birds, and the wonderful people in our UH Wind Ensemble, with the wider musical world,” he said. “But my first concern, and the university’s first concern, is the health and safety of our students.”
UH also announced that a Polynesian studies conference at UH Mānoa and BYU-Hawaii that was scheduled in March have been postponed.
The events were scheduled for March 17 to 18 at BYU-Hawaii and March 24 to 25 at the Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies at UH Mānoa. The mini-symposium has been rescheduled for this fall.
An NBA team that hosted preseason camps and games for the past three years at the Stan Sheriff Center will not be returning this fall because of coronavirus concerns.
Hawaii Tourism Authority President and CEO Chris Tatum said that he informed the Los Angeles Clippers that he would not invite the NBA basketball team back this year.
“I just didn’t think bringing 8,000 to 10,000 people to an arena was the most prudent way to spend the state’s money,” Tatum said in the statement. “Instead, I think we should be focusing on preparing and supporting the state on the coronavirus, which will get worse before it gets better.”
Students and faculty react to the outbreak
Back on the UH Mānoa campus, students, faculty and staff are monitoring the outbreak.
UH said in an email that, “Campus operations continue to function as normal, in accordance with guidance from health officials. In the event updated guidance is issued, the campuses are prepared to respond accordingly.”
Students have recognized that practicing good hygiene should be the first step.
“The important thing honestly we as citizens should be doing is to keep spreading the awareness of good hand hygiene and protecting everyone around us by teaching how to properly do good self hygiene,” Chachie Abara, a senior psychology major, said.
Kaitlin Danible, a junior women’s health major, said that her daily routine has not changed because she already had a habit of washing her hands and cleaning.
“UH is a big school with a lot of people who spread a lot of germs,” Danible said. “If a few people have a cold and get their germs on the desks or door handles, it is just good hygiene to wash your hands.”
“I assume every surface is dirty as if there was a sick person who got their germs on it so I don’t take any risks,” she added. “It’s the same with the cold, it should be the same with the coronavirus.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that to protect yourself and those around you, wash your hands often with soap and water or sanitizer for at least 20 seconds, avoid touching your face and stay home if you are sick.
Campus Center food establishments are also stepping up their cleaning routines.
“The health and safety of our employees, clients and consumers is our utmost priority,” Donna Ojiri, Sodexo general manager, said in an email statement. “Sodexo’s approach is to reinforce our existing rules for food safety, personal hygiene and infection control which will minimize the risk of this, or any other virus, spreading. Together with the team on the ground, we will put in place necessary, additional measures to ensure the health and safety of our teams, clients and consumers we serve.”
The University of Washington was one of the first colleges to announce that classes will no longer be held in person for the remainder of the winter quarter.
The school announced via Twitter that: “Starting Monday, March 9, classes at UW campuses will no longer be meeting in person thru the end of the winter quarter March 20. Campuses will remain OPEN. This action is to support social-distancing steps in the region to fight #COVID19.”
Although UH is not planning to close any campuses as of now, an email about online teaching resources, absenteeism and public events was sent to students, faculty and staff.
The email noted that people should be aware of the possibility of increased student and instructor absences.
UH updated its resource page on how to teach using online resources if it is determined that gathering in classrooms is unsafe if more COVID-19 cases arise on island.
“If UH were to close school due to the virus, I would be worried that the virus is spreading more quickly in Hawai‘i and people are getting more worried,” Danible said.