With cases in Hawaiʻi, O'ahu especially, rising at an alarming rate, the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa shouldn't open this semester. Currently, the statewide total is nearly 4,000 cases of COVID-19 with 40 deaths. Before this spike in cases, the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa was planning on opening the campus with online, hybrid, and in-person class options. However, Maui mayor, Michael Victorino, pushed for the reinstatement of interisland quarantine to restrict the spread of COVID-19 within the state. Governor Ige announced that starting on August 11, a partial interisland quarantine would be put in place. As of now, it's reported that the interisland quarantine would only apply to those traveling to Kaua'i, Hawai'i, Maui, and Kalawao. Along with the reinstatement of interisland quarantine, multiple mayors are also asking for schools and universities to delay opening for a period of 28 days. However, since these announcements, multiple in-person classes switched to online platforms, but not all of them.
So where does that leave university students?
With the sudden surge in cases, there are many students who were planning on returning that are now canceling their move to O'ahu. With state policies changing so rapidly and unpredictably, the university would be better off making all classes strictly online until at least next semester. But the sad reality the university is forcing students into is that they care more about collecting tuition rather than the safety of not only the university's community, but also the island's overall health. If the university truly prioritized the community's health, they wouldn't open up.
In an effort to contain the students from the mainland arriving on O'ahu, the school implemented a "bubble" quarantine. The rules state that the students must arrive with a negative COVID-19 test and will only be allowed to stay on campus grounds for the usual 14-day quarantine period. In theory that sounds like it would work, but knowing college students, it won't work out. There is no reinforcement from the university or housing services to separate students. There will be little to no extra precautions set in place to prevent large gatherings in dorms. Students with negative tests especially will use that as an excuse to think it's okay to leave quarantine or go hang out with their buddies. Even with a negative test, you can still get COVID-19 between the time you get tested and the time you get your results if you aren't cautious! The state does not have the resources to keep up with the rising COVID-19 cases. Hospitals are already filling up, so imagine what will happen when negligent college students "trying to have fun" get sick.
For months, many tourists who have been subject to a 14-day quarantine have disobeyed the state's orders, so who's to say college students will follow it.
O'ahu is currently in one of the biggest COVID-19 spikes since the pandemic started. So to not only allow, but encourage, students to still attend school is reckless. The option of in-person classes and offices reopening on campus should not have even been there. Even before the spike, students felt pressured to return for multiple reasons. For some, it was not delaying their educational track. For others, it was keeping their job with the university. With the reopening of campus, the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa is forcing students to choose between their health or their finances. They trapped students with housing contracts and plane tickets. Students now face losing the money they invested in their return or the health of themselves and others. While it is easy to say students can simply not go, that's not the reality. Personally, I am conflicted morally because I know I'm a part of those mainland students returning to a struggling island, but if I don't go then I'm down hundreds of dollars I cannot afford.
However, I can still protect not only myself but also the community. I, and I hope all students arriving at campus housing, can follow state and university orders and stay on campus, and even go the extra mile and limit your time outside of your own space. Stay hygienic, constantly wash your hands, social distance, and wear your masks! Trust me, you don't need to constantly be around other people to survive. Sadly, everyone's lives are on pause, so yours can be too. Plus, if you're returning to campus to just see your friends and party, not only are you on campus for the wrong reasons, but you're putting not only yourself, but everyone at risk, along with prolonging this pandemic. The middle of a pandemic is not the time to "escape to" Hawaiʻi.
My university shouldn't open this fall, but sadly, it is. They should have made all classes online and shut down campus until the pandemic is truly over, but instead they implemented a program to ship more people to an already struggling community. It is not fair to put Hawaiʻi's vulnerable residents at risk so the university can selfishly profit. But while we can stay angry at how the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa handled this, it is also a matter of how we, as a community, handle our health. And again, WEAR YOUR MASKS!