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COVID-Update: KAIST on High Alert amid Spring Resurgence
COVID-19 Task Force responds 24-7 and ISSS provides returning international students with a comfort package during 14-day mandatory quarantine In response to the upsurge of COVID-19 cases in the proximate college districts in Daejeon, KAIST announced the enforcement of stricter health and safety regulations. Korean health authorities expected another surge of COVID-19 cases this spring as Korea’s daily new COVID-19 cases have rebounded to the high 600s and over 700 in April, which is the most in over three months. New guidelines issued on April 5 banned faculty, staff, and students from engaging in off-campus activities and utilizing external public facilities. Such facilities include, but are not limited to, bars, cafes, clubs, gyms, karaoke rooms, PC rooms, restaurants, and other crowded indoor spaces. All class and research activities, work meetings, and school events were moved exclusively online, and working from home and flexible working hours were highly encouraged in order to minimize face-to-face interactions on campus. In particular, having meals outside of KAIST cafeterias in groups of two or more was prohibited, while food delivery and take-outs were allowed. Executive Vice President and Provost Seung Seob Lee said in a letter to the KAIST community on April 5 that “the school considers the risk of the current situation to be very high, likely the highest since the outbreak of COVID-19.” Provost Lee then called for more team efforts to contain the current phase of the pandemic and asked everyone to do their part. The school installed new temperature scanners equipped with hand sanitizer dispensers in front of the dormitory entrances to further control the spread of the disease on campus, following confirmed COVID-19 cases among dormitory residents. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues with no clear end in sight, the Task Force for the Prevention of COVID-19 and the International Scholar and Student Services (ISSS) Team at KAIST are working around the clock to reduce the risk of infection spread not only within the campus, but also coming from outside the campus. Under strict health and safety guidelines, KAIST has allowed international students to come back to campus. Currently about 600 international students, mostly graduate students reside on campus. All returning students should complete the mandatory 14-day self-quarantine required by the Korean government at their own expense. The KAIST COVID-19 Task Force is in charge of enacting on-campus health and safety guidelines, responding to reports and inquiries from the KAIST community 24-7, and controlling outsider access, among other responsibilities. The ISSS Team requires returning international students to fill out an entry authorization form and receive approval from the KAIST COVID-19 Task Force prior to returning to campus from their home countries. Once students arrive at their designated quarantine facility, the KAIST ISSS Team sends care packages, which includes some toiletries, instant food, a multipot, a thermometer, and other daily necessities. During the quarantine period, returning students are also advised to follow the directions given by government officials and to coordinate with the ISSS Team. The team also provides useful Korean phrases for international students to help them with communication. The self-quarantine period ends at 12 p.m. 14 days after arrival. Within two days of finishing the 14 days of self-isolation, these students are required to undergo a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test for COVID-19 at the nearest health center. After confirmed negative, they are allowed to move into on-campus accommodations. KAIST will maintain the current method of remote education and distancing methods until further notice. (END)
14-Day Drawing Challenge Helps Maintain a Sense of Connection Amid Prolonged Social Distancing
- “You need space, but you also need connections.” - Schools and workplaces have closed and people are staying at home around the globe. Governments across the world have urged their people to keep a distance from others as a measure to slow the spread of the pandemic. With the Korean government’s decision to extend the intensive social distancing campaign until at least April 19, people in Korea are advised to avoid nonessential trips, public facilities, and social gatherings for another two weeks or so. This unprecedented prolonged social distancing drive leads people to feel fatigue and frustration. Such emotional stress is worse for those who live alone in a foreign country. The International Scholar and Student Services (ISSS) Team at KAIST has been working around the clock to build a dedicated COVID-19 Mental Health Support Service to support the university’s international community on campus and abroad and help get them connected online. As the COVID-19 situation lingers, there has been a growing demand for mental health support from many KAIST international members including 299 students who have been staying in Korea on their own and away from their families, as well as from those who could not return to campus from their overseas homes. In response to this, the KAIST ISSS Team has been offering some special online events and programs that can help the KAIST international community stay feeling connected whereever they are, while still keeping a safe distance from each other. For instance, the team is running an art-therapy program called ‘The 14-day Drawing Challenge’ March 30 through April 12. This program is online and individual-based, so it does not require any physical contact between participants. Each participant is asked to draw a picture at home using the daily topics previously set by the ISSS Team over 14 days. The topics include (Day 1) self-portrait, (Day 2) spring flowers, (Day 3) if you could become anything…, (Day 4) funniest memory you have, (Day 5) animals at KAIST, (Day 6) something you love, (Day 7) country or city you want to visit, (Day 8) what’s for dinner? (Day 9) person you miss, (Day 10) your favorite place at KAIST, (Day 11) your feeling today, (Day 12) things in your favorite color, (Day 13) song lyrics, and (Day 14) your future self in 10 years. Once all 14 pieces have been completed, submissions can be made online by sending an e-mail to the ISSS Team after scanning or taking a photo of each drawing. Selected submissions will be awarded small prizes for participation and shared through the university’s official website and SNS channels. “All the participants need is paper, coloring tools, and their creativity and imagination. They don’t have to be a great artist to join this challenge. There is no right or wrong or good or bad. They just need to have fun drawing every day for two weeks, ease their coronavirus anxiety, and remain emotionally stable just like they did back in the normal days,” said Su-yeon Ahn, the manager of the KAIST ISSS Team. She added, “In times like these, you need space, but you also need connections. Our team wants our international students, professors, and researchers to build strong connections with each other, even online.” Katherine Michelle Pena Santana, an M.S. candidate from the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering who is taking part in ‘The 14-day Drawing Challenge,’ looked back and said, “Lately with the new coronavirus spreading around Korea and the entire world, I was feeling very anxious. I didn't get out of my room and lived by just looking at the same walls and creating some kind of a psychological burden on myself.” Santana added that these kinds of activities could give many foreign members of KAIST an opportunity to not only relieve fear and stress, but also share each other’s experiences dealing with this pandemic. She explained that this is why she decided to participate in this challenge. An undergraduate student from the Department of Physics, Ada Carpenter, appreciated the KAIST ISSS Team’s efforts to provide a variety of special online mental health support services to help the university’s international community socialize, while strictly following the government’s guidelines for social distancing. She expressed excitement about participating and said, “I’m so looking forward to the challenge of things that I wouldn’t normally draw.” < Short Self-interview Video Clip Filmed by Ada Carpenter > The COVID-19 Mental Health Support Service by the KAIST ISSS Team will be continually updated with new information and enhanced with other tools and support over the coming weeks and months. Some of the upcoming events and programs include ‘The Online Guitar Lessons’, ‘The Growing Houseplants Challenge’, and ‘The Any Song Challenge*’. * The song titled “Any Song” by Korean rapper Zico has been gaining attention on social media thanks to many celebrities taking on the ‘Any Song Challenge’, performing a short dance to the chorus of the song and sharing it on social media. (END)
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