Amid an alarming surge of novel coronavirus cases in South Korea, the KAIST administration and the Undergraduate Association (UA), FLEX, are extending their efforts to prevent the spread of the virus on campus.
KAIST established a Task Force for the Prevention of COVID-19 and an around-the-clock Situation Room (Ext.0123) to enable immediate and proactive responses to urgent situations regarding coronavirus outbreaks. Safety training, hand sanitizers, and masks have been provided for school events, and hand sanitizers have been placed in major buildings. The Student Life Team conducted several emergency disinfections in common areas and facilities on February 6, 7, 18, 19, and 21. All student dormitories were disinfected on February 20 and 21 with ULV space sterilizers. Sports facilities will be temporarily closed, and outside visitors are prohibited from entering KAIST buildings.
Large-scale events have been postponed or canceled. The 2020 spring semester has been postponed by two weeks, to start on March 16 and conclude on July 3. Exam schedules have been altered correspondingly. Midterms will take place from May 4 to 8 (due to Children’s day on May 5, Tuesday exams will be taken on May 12). Final exams will take place from June 29 to July 3.
In an effort to minimize the inconveniences caused by the change in the academic schedule, the UA conducted a survey from February 11 to 14 to investigate the difficulties brought by the delay of the spring semester. According to the survey results released by FLEX, 41% of the respondents answered that their internship, job, or exchange student schedule is affected, and 12% reported that the delay interferes with their military service plans in the summer. 80% of the respondents requested a flexible change of final exam schedules to prevent students’ summer plans from getting obstructed. The UA delivered these survey results to the school administration and is currently waiting for their response. According to the UA, the school is in progress of discussing and reviewing solutions that were suggested in the survey, including the substitution of in-person classes with online lectures, or a further delay of the spring semester. The UA, too, is reviewing those options in the context of whether they are realistic and urgent.
In response to the reports of rapidly increasing caseloads in Korea, KAIST stepped up measures to prevent the spread of the virus. Returning students from China have been put into quarantine in Hwaam Hall dormitory. As of February 21, 76 have completed self-quarantine and 6 are currently under it. On February 21, the KAIST Task Force released a survey to all KAIST members, including incoming freshmen, to report their travel history in regions where travel is not advised due to high coronavirus outbreaks. These regions include Hong Kong, Macao, Singapore, Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, and the Special Care Zones in Korea (Daegu and Cheongdo). Anyone who visited or traveled via those regions is urged to follow procedures of self-monitoring: limit interactions with people, always wear masks, and intensively monitor their health, and report body temperatures twice a day to the Task Force. Incoming freshmen from the Special Care Zone, where an explosion of the number of coronavirus cases have occurred, are to implement self-monitoring for two weeks before entering the dormitory. Those who are currently in or have visited Daegu or Cheongdo are allowed to work from home while performing two weeks of self-monitoring.
In response to the two confirmed cases in Daejeon, International Scholar and Student Services (ISSS) released an English translated version of the travel routes of the patients. Those who have possibly had close contact with the confirmed patients are recommended to intensively self-monitor their health.
The KAIST administration pledged to continue thoroughly monitoring people in self-quarantine and to implement further safety measures for possible scenarios that may arise after the semester begins. The UA plans to develop suggestions for the school administration to minimize problems students are experiencing, such as investigating whether there were any inconveniences experienced by students in quarantine.
Meanwhile, on February 20, rumors spread on SNS that an employee of a restaurant in KAIST has attended a religious event with participants from Daegu and could potentially be a virus carrier. As uneasiness about the rumors grew, later that day, the UA and KAIST Task Force confirmed that, while it is true that the employee attended the religious event, “there is no fear of direct contact with an infected person” and that the possibilities of the employee being exposed to viral threats due to the event are very low. The employee does not have any symptoms but has agreed to be put in self-quarantine. The restaurant was disinfected that day.
Those who have cough, fever, and difficulty breathing should seek medical assistance quickly. Before seeking medical help at a public hospital, call 1339, the KAIST Task Force (042-350-0123) or your local health center to report your symptoms.