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March 24 COVID-19 update

24 March, 2020

Since I last spoke to you, the COVID-19 crisis we are all facing has come closer to home. As you know, we now have multiple confirmed cases at KAUST. None of them are showing symptoms, and they were confirmed by tests administered prior to exiting their 14-day quarantine.

The process of testing and tracing possible contacts made by each diagnosed person is underway and is being carried out in close cooperation with the Saudi Ministry of Health. For those who do test positive, KAUST will make sure that they receive the best possible treatment. At KAUST, we have excellent people and facilities in place, and as previously reported, the King Abdullah Medical Complex facilities is word class.

We are now entering a new phase of our comprehensive pandemic preparedness plan, including more restrictions on movement and gatherings within our community. It is important now that you adhere to all restrictions and advice we have put in place as each of these helps to minimize further risk to the community. We now have a new test of our solidarity.

Each of us should take proactive actions to minimize our risk of being infected, but there is no need for panic. Our campus is as safe as, if not safer than, any community that has been affected by COVID-19. We have a gated community, with recently installed controlled access, and our food and major utility supplies are assured.

We have moved all instruction online, hibernated most of our labs and effectively implemented remote working. We now want to limit the impact so that we can support our well-developed environment. Most importantly, we want to support the frontline staff whose efforts have kept the virus out until now.

These cases demonstrate that, despite our comprehensive efforts, KAUST is not immune to the wave of COVID-19 coming our way. However, we should keep in mind that our risk mitigation system, which stipulated substantially increased requests for testing, has allowed us to identify these cases.

Let me assure you that the effort now underway is comprehensive, thorough and highly proactive. The entire senior management team, plus many others, are working on this matter.

There is now an emergency operation center coordination group led by Vice President of Community Life, Chris Sealey. This group delivers the operational response. Overseeing this is a crisis management team that I am leading. This senior leadership team is focused on the strategic aspects of our University response.

In this regard, we will continue to analyze and plan immediate responses, but also with a broader horizon. Combined, I believe this complementary approach puts KAUST in a strong position in what is a serious challenge.

The collective spirit and solidarity shown by our community to date has been truly impressive. I hope this will continue in the days and weeks to come, as we are all stronger together during this time.

Maintaining our personal health and safety, as well as that of our campus is, not a service to be delivered, rather it is an outcome of our own personal actions, as well as that of the collective actions of all members of this community.

Thank you,

Tony F. Chan
KAUST President