University of Utah’s South Korea campus takes precautions against coronavirus spread

(Photo Courtesy of the University of Utah) Pictured is the University of Utah Asia campus in South Korea.

All classes at the University of Utah’s campus in South Korea will be held online while the country faces a major outbreak of the coronavirus — and any students who may have been exposed to the illness are being asked to “self-quarantine” in the dorms.

The measures are, so far, precautionary. But they come as cases of the virus in South Korea skyrocketed over the weekend to more than 800 with at least seven deaths.

The U.’s South Korea campus, located in Incheon, is 100 miles away from the epicenters in Daegu and Cheongdo. But the school — the only Utah college with an international campus in any of the countries with an outbreak — is trying to reduce all meetings and gatherings as the spring semester there started Monday.

“There’s an outbreak and it’s growing,” said Shawn Wood, a spokesman for the U. “We just want to be careful.”

The South Korea extension, which started about five years ago, has 292 students. Most are from Korea, though 28 students transferred there from the United States.

Because of the time difference, it’s unclear how many U. students there had elected to self-quarantine Monday. The school has asked anyone who is from or has recently visited Daegu and Cheongdo to do so. Those students are asked to stay in select, closed-off dorm rooms for 14 days to see if they come down with the illness and to prevent spreading it.

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Wood said they have access to food and restrooms. And all staff working with those students will be wearing protective gear.

“The housing officials will have communication with them,” Wood assured.

Meanwhile, classes at the college have been moved online for all students — both those quarantined and not — to limit exposure among larger groups. And it canceled its student orientation earlier this month.

Students can still individually meet with faculty and advisors as other campus operations continue.

The school will reassess whether to keep going with online classes in early March.

The University of Utah shares dorms in South Korea with programs started by three other colleges: Ghent University, the State University of New York and George Mason University. Those schools are taking similar precautions.

The coronavirus has been far more widespread in South Korea and Japan, as well as China, where is originated, though cases have also climbed in Iran and Italy. The number of people sickened by the illness worldwide has topped 79,000, according to The Associated Press. Nearly 3,000 have died of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

There are 53 cases in the United States, most from a quarantined cruise ship, including a Utah couple.

South Korea’s president placed the country under red alert but has not locked down the cities where the virus is concentrated. The U. advises students and staff not to travel to the epicenters.

Brigham Young University in Provo, meanwhile, has placed a travel ban to anywhere in China for its students and employees “until further notice.” All of its study abroad trips there have been canceled or re-routed to other countries.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which owns BYU, has also pulled several of its missionaries out of Hong Kong because of virus concerns.