Coronavirus Precautions Lead to Online Semester at AUBG

Approximately four months after the discovery of the COVID-19 patient zero on Dec. 1, 2019, in Wuhan, China, the AUBG campus seems barren, smells of disinfectant and its walls are covered with personal hygiene posters. It is the first time in the history of AUBG that in-class lectures are moved online. “We’ve never had anything like this before,” said Dean of students, Lydia Krise.

Like other universities and businesses around the world, AUBG campus life came to an abrupt halt. For better or worse, on March 13 the university’s leadership committee decided to keep all classes online until the end of the semester.

The committee’s decision is final. Even if the COVID-19 situation gets better in the following weeks, the university will proceed with online lecturing. “At this point, we have had to make a decision for the rest of the semester, so we will unfortunately not get back to normal before the end of the semester,” the Interim President David Evans said in an email to AUBG Daily.

Empty AUBG campus. Photo taken by Yoan Bondakov.

The new changes will not disrupt the completion of the semester, instead, the online lectures are implemented to keep the things at a normal pace. “We have to, with our accreditation, offer you a certain number of weeks of classes in the semester,” said Krise. “So if we shut down for two weeks, or three weeks, or four weeks, we will have to go that much longer in the spring, and that will interfere with Work and Travel.”

The online learning platform Canvas is here to stay and only very dire development of the COVID-19 events may prevent graduation. “Unless it is unimaginably worse than it is now we are committed to finishing the semester so seniors can graduate,” Evans said. “Unless really something catastrophic happens we are going to the end.”

For the remainder of the semester, all on-campus events and activities are canceled or postponed. Further development on that matter is in the planning stages. For now, the commencement ceremony, the honors convocation, and the Multitalent Quest are expected to take place in the fall semester.

Students are asked to leave the campus and gather their belongings by March 20. Those unable to leave due to compelling reasons such as travel restrictions or health concerns will be allowed to stay until the end of the semester. Beginning next week all remaining students will be accommodated in Skaptopara I, while the other residence halls will be closed and disinfected. “We are distributing requests to see how many students will be staying,” director of Residence Life, Todor Kehayov, said.

Personal hygiene posters and disinfectant dispenser on a wall in Skaptopara III. Photo taken by Yoan Bondakov.

This weekend, plans will be made regarding budget and possible refunds for housing fees, meal plan, and club fees. According to Iliya Kardashliev, VP for Finance and Administration, students can expect further information about their accounts on Monday, March 16.

The campus is restricted to only members of the AUBG community and access is possible via identification. In addition, Sports Hall, Theater Hall, Gym, Delchev Auditorium, and the party rooms are closed, while the Health Center will remain functional. The Canteen is working with a new schedule from 11:00 – 19:00. “We will remain open until the end of the semester,” Olga Draganova, Dining Services Manager, said. Possible problems in the food supply are non-existent. “I don’t think there is any kind of treat foreseen for this supply chain,” Director of Operation, Todor Todorov, said.

People on campus are encouraged to remain calm, wash their hands frequently, and keep a social distance. “Masks and other protective measures are primarily supplied for the needs of the personnel. For now, we cannot provide them to all students,” Dr. Ventsislav Daskalov, Director of the Health Center, said.  Additionally, the guards are instructed to monitor the students with laser thermometers and report the data to Doctor Daskalov.

AUBG guard measuring the temperature of a student. Photo taken by Yoan Bondakov.

Students on campus showing possible COVID-19 symptoms are urgently advised to remain in their room and call Doctor Daskalov. In this way, appropriate measures can be taken, while limiting the endangerment of other students. According to Dr. Daskalov, a person is regarded as potentially infected with COVID-19 if they have the disease symptoms, a history of traveling from high-risk countries or had contact with high-risk individuals. Students fitting this profile will have to stay in their room until Dr. Daskalov contacts the Metropolitan Regional Health Inspectorate. After that, a specialized car is sent to pick up the patient, who will be transported to a hospital for testing.

“If in the university, on the campus, is registered a case, automatically, most likely, the whole campus will be put under quarantine,” Dr. Daskalov said. “This means that all of us, even those who do not live here but work, will be locked in here for at least two weeks with no right to go out.” According to Doctor Daskalov, if the university is already quarantined and a new positive case is registered, the quarantine period will be reset.

We must adapt to the difficulties of a worldwide pandemic virus, and although the following months are uncertain, our duty is to avoid panic and protect those around us. As a test of our spirit and discipline, the unfolding events will change us. Let's hope the change is worthwhile.


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