(BIVN) – The COVID-19 pandemic is having an effect on various operations on Maunakea.
On Sunday, the University of Hawaiʻi announced that the Maunakea Visitor Information Station, or VIS, will suspend operations starting at 6 p.m. on Sunday, March 15 in response to the global outbreak.
“We understand that the Visitor Information Center is helpful to those who visit Maunakea,” said the General Manager of Maunakea Observatory Support Services, Stewart Hunter. “However, we want to be prudent for the welfare of our visitors and our staff during this extraordinary time. We appreciate the understanding of the public.”
UH says the parking lot will remain open, as will the portable toilets located there. The mountain remains open to the public.
A recent message from the director of the W. M. Keck Observatory, Hilton Lewis, provided an example of how the astronomical observatories at the summit – as well as their associated operations below – are adjusting to the situation.
“Science operations on Maunakea will continue as long as we can do so at low risk,” Lewis wrote. “We are grateful that there are no confirmed cases on Hawaii Island, however, we feel it is our responsibility and in the best interest of our employees and the local community to enact these protective measures.”
Keck has implemented the following measures:
- Working from home is mandatory for those who are able to do so, starting Monday, March 16. Many Keck staff are already working from home.
- Scaled back site operations to essential and high-priority activities.
- Closed visitor galleries in Waimea and on the Summit and cancelled public outreach.
- Canceled business travel.
- Switched to remote observing only (no astronomers traveling to Hawaiʻi).
- Increased the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting of Keck work sites.
- Providing paid administrative leave for employees unable to work due to COVID-19-related reasons.
- Making accommodations for immunocompromised employees and employees who are caregivers for immunocompromised loved ones.