INCHEON, SOUTH KOREA – After months online, University of Utah Asia Campus (UAC) along with other institutions on Incheon Global Campus (IGC) will commence in-person/hybrid classes this October. While many campus community members are in support of a return to ‘regular’ learning, students and staff are still hesitant regarding the switch. What would happen if a member of IGC community test positive to COVID-19?
Julia Chuang, a first semester freshman at the UAC, was the most hesitant regarding the return to in-person classes. “Resuming in person classes would definitely increase the risk [of COVID] especially if one person from the university tested positive. Since the campus is a place with so many students and we all go to different places, not only stay in Incheon, it would be much more difficult for not only the school community but also students to keep safe.” She further asserted that it seems as though we have grown complacent with the COVID issue, and that it is imperative for us to remember the gravity of the issue.
Other students were worried about the school’s ability to prevent an outbreak on IGC. UAC Student, Jieun Moon cites, “It would lead to further mass infections. Not long ago, there was a mass infection in one Starbucks in Korea, which was caused by an air conditioner. Similarly, students and faculties can be affected through the heater, which is located in every single room [on campus]. Also, as many faculties and students in the IGC community live in the dorm or Songdo, it might result in continuous spikes in the virus.”
While some continued to show worry regarding the possibility of a student testing positive, others were hopeful about how IGC would be able to handle the return to in-person. A UAC student, who preferred to remain anonymous, asserted, “We already do a good job of keeping track of students, where they are and when they are coming into the building, so I think we’d be able to know who had contact with who if someone tested positive. Just as long as everyone was clear on what they needed to do in order to be careful. So far the precautions we have put in place have been good and it would be helpful for us to go back to in-person.”
During the course of our interviews we also corresponded with Kevin D’Arco, the Assistant Director of Student Life. He referred us to the email sent to students by Dr. Hill on October 8th which among other information regarding the decision to open the campus, also highlights safety protocols that will be reinforced during the coming weeks.
D’Arco further noted that “If a case were to happen in IGC, the university would first work with the community member and local health officials to get them the necessary care. We will follow the procedures outlined by the KCDC and, as a university, move to red-level operations for the semester. In this case, all courses will be shifted into IVC format except those that require a practical component”.
When the Housing Office at IGC was asked for comment, our contact replied after further consultation with their office by reiterating IGC’s procedures for containing any possible outbreaks. While much of the information we received does not indicate any new contingencies, it provided a comprehensive overview of what IGC’s current policies surrounding Covid currently are. They explained that confirmed cases were prohibited entry to the dorms and that temperature checks will continue to be adhered to. They noted that if the remote thermometers show a temperature over 37.5 degrees, that individuals seeking entry will be asked to use a contact thermometer. If their temperature is still high, they will be prohibited entry to the dorms and will be required to submit to testing at a nearby hospital. While awaiting results students will be required to stay in isolation housing. If tests are positive, students will then be promptly moved to a health facility for treatment and recovery while the Public Health Center disinfects all housing and places that individual has stayed or visited.
According to the Dr. Hill’s email on October 7th, after a long discussion with UAC leadership, the Incheon Global Campus, the other universities on campus and KCDC and Korean government, our campus will be opened for 2020 hybrid course. From October 19th, about 50% of the classes which were planned to be in-person will resume in-person. The other half of the classes will be held via interactive video classes (IVC).
Dr. Hill listed the health and safety protocols to remind the UAC students and faculties: 1. Every single person must get the temperature check either B1 or 1st floor. 2. Everyone must wear masks properly. 3. In classroom, there will be no more than 50 students and should maintain social distancing. 4. There are minimized number of people in classes. 5. All classrooms are going to be cleaned every day. 5. Hand sanitizers are placed in all classrooms 6. It is recommended for students to wipe the workspaces before and after their class. 7. Everyone who are going to 1-3 floors are highly recommended to use stairs. When using elevator, there should be no more than 5 people.
He added the review of the schedule on the school website for students to check if their classes are in-person or IVC classes. If it is written as IVC, the classes are going to be just like how we have been doing until now, via Zoom.
Since the initial COVID-19 outbreak in South Korea early February, the University of Utah Asia Campus and other facilities on IGC have taken an abundance of caution in regard to the spread of the virus. All four universities have been shut down for the past nine months, much of the student population has moved off-campus, and many campus resources, including gyms, pools, and extracurricular rooms, have been closed off to students.