All Announcements

​​​​​​May 18 Message from President Khuri​

​Dear AUB community,

As the 2019-20 academic year draws to a close, I am writing to set out the conditions that will govern AUB's reopening for the 2020 summer term, which begins on June 1. As we have since this crisis began, we are putting safety first, and the following measures will be implemented in line with the recommendations of our Expert Committee on COVID-19, and in close coordination with the expanded Council of Associate Deans, the Office of the Registrar, the Office of Student Affairs, the Office of Protection, and the Environmental Health, Safety, and Risk Management team.

The government schedule for phased reopening—which is contingent on the continued containment of COVID-19 cases in Lebanon and therefore subject to amendment—stipulates that educational establishments should return as of May 25. This schedule allows AUB to reopen, but with community health our priority, we shall only be conducting academic activities on campus that cannot be completed remotely, e.g., lab courses, practicums, and internships. Such activities that can proceed on campus will do so under strict infection prevention and control measures that comply with US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance. These measures can be categorized under the following three headings:

Keep a safe distance. Remain two meters apart from others whenever possible; avoid any physical contact with others and do not shake hands or embrace friends; avoid crowding (in elevators or doorways, for example); if you experience COVID-19 symptoms, stay at home and contact your healthcare provider.

Cover your nose and mouth. Wear cloth face covers or oral-nasal masks in the presence of other people to avoid spreading droplets that might contain the virus; make sure you are masked as you enter campus, or you will be turned away.

Follow strict hygiene rules. Wash your hands with soap and water as often as practicable; use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available; use a tissue to sneeze or cough into, or to dry your hands and turn off the faucet, then discard it in a waste bin; take particular care with frequently touched surfaces; do not share stationery, printed material, or other objects; scan and send soft copies of documents rather than sharing hard copies by hand.

These rules should be observed closely by the entire AUB community until such time as they can be further relaxed, remembering that a rise in COVID-19 cases could necessitate a tighter lockdown. Staff required to maintain the essential operations of the university will return to campus under these same rules. You can expect to hear from your supervisors in this respect.

All classrooms and lab spaces will be allocated with sufficient space for proper physical distancing. More detailed information to support teaching faculty will be released by their faculty/school Academic Continuity Teams.

Students who have registered for summer courses will be notified whether their teaching will be offered physically or remotely. Those who cannot attend in person, either because they have a compromised immune system or other risk factors, or if they cannot physically reach campus, should register for online courses only and may need to amend their schedules as a result.

AUB's objective is to enable the safe resumption of core academic activities that require in-person teaching. We shall continue to keep the libraries, cafeterias, sports facilities, and other nonessential operations closed until further notice. Faculty and students should not come to campus if they do not have classes and are required to leave as soon as their last class finishes. AUB student housing will continue to operate under current restrictions and on a case-by-case basis. For further information please contact the student housing office.  

Unquestionably, 2019-2020 has been an incredibly challenging academic year for our whole community. Whether in teaching, learning, research, service, or supporting roles, you have done our university proud by your determination to keep the AUB flame burning brightly amid the gloom and desperation that surrounds us. Normally, this is our season to applaud the well-deserved success and future impact of 2,000 fresh graduates—but we must put aside such happy thoughts until we can properly come together in celebration. Our focus instead is on a safe resumption of campus education that cannot be accomplished online and we know we can count on the exceptional AUB family to bring this about through informed awareness and compliance with the measures we need to take to protect ourselves and those around us. 

 

Best regards,

Fadlo R. Khuri, MD
President​

Original Mes​s​age​​​


​April 28 (Expert Committee) Home Exercise Program during the COVID-19 pandemic

​Dear AUB community, 

Regular exercise is a key component of a healthy lifestyle, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown. We have recommended 2.5 hours of exercise a week in previous communications of the Expert Committee on COVID-19, to support both physical and mental health and wellbeing. Today’s message has been developed with the Physical Therapy Department at AUBMC to provide you with an easy-to-follow program to help you stay active at home and realize your weekly exercise goal. 

The 10 exercises below can be done by people who have sedentary lifestyles and people of all ages from adolescent to seniors. We shall be issuing further sets of exercises that gradually increase the physical intensity of the program. Try to set a fixed time for daily exercise and keep challenging yourself. If you find it hard to be motivated, you can try the following incentives: exercise with a partner (keeping two meters apart, or by video link); reward yourself for reaching your goals; play your favorite music or podcast while you exercise; track your progress over time. If you need any assistance, please call x6645/6.

The following exercises are designed to be performed once per day. If you would like to keep a handy link to help you remember the moves on your phone or laptop, please bookmark this page

1. SHORT ARC QUAD
Lie on your back with a rolled-up towel or other object placed under one knee and slowly straighten your leg to raise your foot from the floor. Hold the position for five seconds. Repeat 10 times on each side.
 
2. STRAIGHT LEG RAISE
Lie on your back keeping one leg straight and the other bent with the foot planted on the floor. Raise the straight leg off the ground. Hold the position for five seconds before lowering it. Repeat 10 times on each side.
 
3. HIP FLEXION ISOMETERIC
Lie on your back with both feet planted on the floor. Raise one foot up and press your knee into your hands. Hold for five seconds before returning your foot to the floor. Repeat 10 times on each side.
 
4. BRIDGING
Lie on your back with knees bent, tighten your lower abdominal muscles, squeeze your buttocks, and raise yourself off the floor to create a bridge with your body. Hold for five seconds. Repeat 20 times.
 
5. BRACE BICYCLE UNSUPPORTED
Lie on your back with both knees bent and your feet off the floor. Using your stomach muscles to keep your spine from moving, straighten one leg and then the other while keeping the opposite knee bent. Repeat 20 times.
 
6. ABDUCTION BILATERAL
Sit on a chair with your arms by your sides. Move both arms out horizontally and then reach upwards. Hold for one second before returning to the start position. Repeat 20 times.
 
7. SIT TO STAND NO SUPPORT
Sit on the front edge of a chair. Lean forward with your arms stretched in front of you and slowly rise from the chair to stand up. Let your arms fall to your sides as you reach standing position. Do the same in reverse to sit down. Repeat 10 times.
 
8. SINGLE LEG STANCE
Stand on one leg and hold the position for five seconds unsupported, while being careful to maintain your balance. Repeat 10 times on each side.
 
9. STANDING SIDE BEND STRETCH 
Start in a standing position with your arms beside you. Bend your upper body to the side and slide your hand down your leg. Do not lean forward or back but try to move your spine directly to the side. Hold for five seconds and return to upright. Then do the same movement on the other side. Repeat 10 times.
 
10. WALL PUSH UPS
Stand with your hands pressed against a wall with your arms straight. Bend your elbows slowly to bring your chest close to the wall. Keep both feet on the ground the entire time. Repeat 20 times.

Carine J. Sakr, MD, MPH
Chair, Expert Committee on COVID-19​

Original Message

​​​April 22 (Expert Committee) Mental Health Support and Tips During the COVID-19 Pandemic

​Dear AUB community,

Increased stress is one of many effects of the COVID-19 crisis. We may be anxious about catching the disease, especially if we have underlying health conditions, or about vulnerable people around us catching the virus. This is on top of the additional pressures of economic hardship, isolation, and confinement because of the pandemic.

People react to stress in many different ways: feeling heightened anxiety; changing sleeping or eating patterns; having difficulty concentrating; using alcohol, or other substances; or using other coping strategies. These changes can have a strong impact on our physical and mental health.

In the following message, developed with the Department of Psychiatry and the Office of Student Affairs, we highlight initiatives for our faculty, staff, and students, and the broader AUB community, and provide some tips that anyone can implement to relieve their stress.

1-     Mental health support for faculty and staff

Free, confidential mental health support is being made available to all AUB employees during the COVID-19 crisis. The service, offered by the Department of Psychiatry, in collaboration with the Employee Health Unit, with the support of the AUBHEALTH team, includes: 

  • Short-term individual support for people experiencing stress, worry, or interpersonal difficulties.
  • Virtual group sessions to promote resilience for dealing with stressful situations.

All sessions are conducted remotely without needing a referral. Please call extension 3000 for an appointment or for more information.

2-     Mental health services for people living with COVID-19 and their families

The Department of Psychiatry is offering an integrated mental health support system to anyone presenting for testing and admitted to the Pandemic Evaluation Clinic and Center (PECC), or for those who have been already diagnosed with COVID-19 and their families.

In line with international recommendations, all interventions are done safely using telemedicine in collaboration with medical and nursing colleagues in Family Medicine, Emergency Medicine, Pediatrics, Infectious Diseases, and Pulmonary/Critical Care who are at the frontline of this effort.

  • Virtual psychological group sessions, individual counseling and psychiatric evaluation are offered to patients and their families.

For inquiries, please call extension 7375.

3-     Mental health tips

Members of the Department of Psychiatry are creating short videos on how to best cope with stress during this period. Be on the lookout for these videos on AUB's social media platforms.

4-     Mental health initiatives for AUB students

The Office of Student Affairs (OSA) has maintained constant contact with the students through emails and social media (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook), spreading mental health awareness, information, and guidance to students. The Office of Student Affairs has maintained close coordination between all its units to ensure that students are connected to the services available to them and that matched their additional challenges. This ensures students can receive services from a multidisciplinary team (Counseling Center, Accessible Education Office, Student Wellness Outreach, Student Housing, Career Hub, Student Activities, etc).

The Counseling Center has also engaged students with the following initiatives:

  • Remote individual counseling support: Through phone, email, and WebEx, this support line targets individuals who had already visited the center before the lockdown, in addition to new cases seeking support during these difficult times.
  •  Support group for dorm residents: led by the Student Wellness Outreach team, a support group for remaining dorm residents visited residents to offer support and follow-up phone calls for those unable to return to their homes.
  • Peer Support: The Student Wellness Outreach and Peer Support Center has launched an initiative to provide supportive tips to students on a daily basis. These messages are by students for students. Peer supporters have also been engaged to provide insight on student concerns and student needs are highlighted for further follow-up.
  • Workshops: The Student Wellness Outreach and the Counseling Center of OSA established a partnership with GradEx of the Graduate Council to conduct a workshop for students on how to succeed during the lockdown, shedding light on anxiety during the outbreak and sharing tips to improve virtual connectedness/support and attain academic success. Based on the positive feedback from of the pilot workshop, subsequent weekly workshops were announced and will continue weekly until the end of the Spring Semester.

5-     General tips for better mental health

Looking after your own health and wellbeing by following these recommendations can be a great way to deal with stress.

  •  Keeping routines: Try as much as possible to keep to your personal daily routines or create new ones that are suited to the lockdown. Engage in healthy activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly, maintain regular sleep routines and eat healthy food.
  • Physical isolation is not social isolation: Being physically distant from other people does not mean you need to be socially isolated. Stay connected and maintain your social networks using telephone, email, video conferences, or social media (in moderation).
  • Listen to your emotions: During times of stress, pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in healthy activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Do not dwell on your fears. Public health agencies and experts across the world are putting all their efforts into dealing with this unprecedented crisis.
  • ·Reduce the information overload: The near-constant stream of news about any outbreak can cause anyone to feel anxious or stressed. Seek information updates and practical guidance at specific times during the day from official sources of information (MOPH and WHO) and avoid following rumors that make you feel uncomfortable.

We do not know how long it will be before we can resume our normal lives. In the meantime, please look after your mental health and of those around you, and use the services outlined above.

Carine J. Sakr, MD, MPH
Chair, Expert Committee on COVID-19

Original Mes​s​age​​​


April 22 (President and Provost) Final course assessment, spring term 2020

Since the beginning of last month, the university has been actively working on addressing the challenges posed by the disruption of the unprecedented COVID-19 emergency, including a quick move to technology-assisted teaching instead of in-person classes. In order to allow faculty and students to concentrate their efforts on successfully achieving the learning outcomes of spring semester courses, while relieving additional grade anxiety that students may experience, we have already made available a pass/no-pass alternative to traditional numeric or letter grading, which was devised by the expanded Council of Associate Deans (eCAD) and which we announced on March 27. Employing the same student-centered approach, eCAD has now turned its attention to ensuring the fair testing and evaluation of course learning without recourse to traditional, in-person final exams.

Faculty members are strongly encouraged to assess student learning by means other than proctored online examinations. There are a number of highly effective alternatives, as outlined by the Office of Information Technology Revisit Your Assessment page; these include virtual in-class presentations, group assignments, non-proctored Moodle exams, and discussion forums. In cases where a proctored, timed online exam is deemed necessary, the Office of IT has evaluated and the university has approved the use of a third-party remote proctoring tool, Respondus, which is a secure system safeguarding against privacy invasion, that simulates in-person exams online by verifying identities and detecting unusual activity via video analysis and by securing exam takers' web browsers.

Please note, however, that Respondus cannot perfectly replicate normal exam conditions, and students may still have legitimate concerns about being monitored remotely in their homes. Therefore, students will be allowed to opt out of remotely proctored exams without negatively affecting their final results, and faculty members will be asked to provide alternative assessments for students wishing not to be monitored by Respondus. There are several steps outlined below that students and faculty members will need to undertake in courses that will be making use of a remotely proctored exam. The Office of IT will provide support for the process; instructions how to use Respondus and a full set of FAQs will be published shortly.

Students will be asked to read the university's privacy statement, familiarize themselves with the Respondus tool, and perform a mock exam using it. By May 4, after the familiarization period, students will be asked if they wish to opt in to taking a Respondus-proctored exam. Those who do not wish to will make arrangements for alternative assessment with their instructor. Furthermore, should any student experience technical difficulties that cannot be addressed during any online exam, proctored or not, they will automatically revert to alternative assessment arrangements. ​

Faculty members who are considering the use of the Respondus tool will be familiarizing themselves with how it works and will make their decision on whether to use it by April 27. They will also ensure the timely administration of alternative assessment arrangements. A separate message will be sent to faculty membe​rs giving more details shortly.

We thank all our faculty, students, and staff for their efforts as they continue working to ensure AUB maintains the highest educational standards during these difficult times.


Best regards,
 
Fadlo R. Khuri, MD                                                     Mohamed Harajli, PhD
President                                                                     Provost

Original Mes​s​age​​​

 

​​​​April 9 Extending the provision of technology-assisted classes until end of spring term​

Dear AUB community,

I am writing to inform you that we have decided to continue the provision of technology-assisted classes in lieu of face-to-face teaching and other measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 until the end of the spring term—that is until May 6 according to the schedule.

This is by way of follow-up to our message of Mar​ch 12, 2020, after the WHO declared the COVID-19 outbreak to be a pandemic, compelling us to announce the suspension of in-person teaching for 45 days (to April 26).

Although there are some positive indicators that spread of the coronavirus has been slowed by social distancing and hygiene measures taken by the population of Lebanon, the numbers of confirmed cases of COVID-19 continues to rise in the country. We therefore urge everyone in our community to continue to take utmost care to avoid catching or transmitting COVID-19.

 

Best regards,

Fadlo R. Khuri, MD
President​

Original Mes​s​age​​​


​April 8 Postponement of the University’s 151st​ Commencement Ceremonies​

Dear AUB community,

I hope you are managing well in the difficult circumstances we find ourselves. At the beginning of this academic year no one could have imagined the logistical and emotional challenges our students and professors would face to realize the demanding learning outcomes that we set at AUB. To our students, even though you are scarcely past your teenage years, you have already overcome obstacles to your education that call to mind the toughest impediments your parents' generation had to face during the civil war.

We have already addressed the issue of grading, offering a pass/no-pass option for our students. Graduating students have also been asking what our plans are for Commencement, scheduled for June 5 and 6. Our graduation ceremony is a quintessential AUB experience in the magnificent outdoor setting of Green Field, with the inspirational presence of distinguished honorands, and row-upon-row of families and new graduates, buoyed with pride in their achievement and excitement about their future. We believe our graduating students deserve better than us cancelling this ceremony because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have also ruled out a “virtual commencement" with digital participation that would fall so far short of the physical event.

In the circumstances, therefore, we have decided to postpone the university's 151st Commencement Exercises until such time as it is possible to hold a ceremony worthy of AUB's lofty standards. We shall aim in principle to hold the event in September around the start of the fall term. If stringent pandemic measures still obtain by that time, we shall work towards a later date. I want all our graduating students to take heart. You are doing everything you can to complete your world-class AUB education. We shall do everything in our power to give you all a graduation ceremony to remember.

 

Best regards,

Fadlo R. Khuri, MD
President​

Original Mes​s​age​​​


​​​​March 27 (President and Provost) P​/NP decision

Dear AUB faculty and students, 
 
With April fast approaching, we are finally nearing the end of this tumultuous 2019-20 academic year, which has witnessed the disruption and instability associated with the deterioration of the Lebanese economy, the October 17 uprising, and now the coronavirus lockdown and an imminent global recession. While everyone—faculty, students, staff, alumni, and friends—has striven to maintain AUB’s high standards in the face of major challenges, we recognize the particular burden on our student population in realizing their academic potential, with that impact weighing more heavily on some than others. Therefore, the AUB leadership, Board of Deans, and University Senate have approved a temporary measure for the spring term that ensures students are not unfairly disadvantaged in their course grades. The alternate course grading option will not increase the burden on our faculty and can be implemented quickly.
 
The decision is to make available to students the option of a pass/no-pass (P/NP) final grade for their courses, instead of the regular letter or numeric grade. By making it optional, students whose circumstances favor receiving a regular letter or numeric grade in any individual course can make that choice. This will allow all our students maximum flexibility in assessing the impact of the current situation in their own individual and unique circumstances. In either case, we encourage students to choose the course grading option that they believe serves them best.
 
We realize that there will be many questions about implications of this temporary measure. These include questions about academic standing (probation, promotion, Deans Honor Lists) and transferring into a major. We are creating frequently asked questions (FAQs) pages for faculty and students which will include currently known questions and others as they arise. Answers to these questions will be posted as they are developed and we encourage you to visit the site often. 
 
What has been approved is that students will be permitted to view their final grade for each course in AUBsis in late May in order to make an informed choice whether to opt into the P/NP grading option for any individual course. Faculty members will assign a final grade according to the student’s choice. 

  • ​“Pass” (P) shall be assigned for satisfactory performance, i.e., 60 (or D) and above for undergraduate work, and 70 (or C+) for graduate work. It will carry credit, but will not count in the calculation of the GPA. It will also count toward satisfying a prerequisite requirement as well as toward satisfying any minimum grade requirement.
  • “No-pass” (NP) shall be assigned for unsatisfactory work. No-pass will carry no credit, but will also not count in the calculation of the GPA. 
A notation on the transcript will indicate that all evaluations for the spring term 2019-2020 were made in a period of significant academic disruption.
 
We trust that being able to choose the pass/no-pass option according to the process outlined above will give students some peace of mind with respect to their grades. At the same time, it will help maintain our mission of education by allowing both students and faculty to concentrate their total, sustained efforts on successfully achieving the learning outcomes of spring courses. More important, it is intended to focus once more on the value of learning and to deemphasize the importance of grades. After all, AUB aspires to inspire and encourage life-long learning, a quality all AUB citizens should continue to commit to. 
 
Best regards,
 
Fadlo R. Khuri, MD                                                     Mohamed Harajli, PhD
President                                                                     Provost

Original Mes​s​age​​​

​​​March 23 (Expert Committee) Nutritional advice during the COVID-19 pandemic

Dear AUB community, 

Please read this joint message from our colleagues at AUBMC’s Department of Clinical Nutrition and the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences’ Nutrition Department giving important information on the ways in which diet and lifestyle can—and cannot—boost your immune system during the coronavirus pandemic. 

This message has been approved by the Expert Committee on COVID-19. 

“Misinformation on prevention of coronavirus infection is proliferating. You should beware of the many claims without any scientific basis that are circulating both on traditional and social media on how to prevent, treat, or cure COVID-19 using a variety of dietary interventions.

“To date, no reputable international authority has approved any claim for a single food, herb, or natural health product to be labeled as protecting against infection or boosting immunity. 

“The normal functioning of the immune system depends on many nutrients that are present in fresh, natural foods. Nutritionists at AUB encourage:

  • ​Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet by consuming a variety of foods that include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, pulses, fish, meat, and dairy products.
  • Being physically active for at least 2.5 hours per week.
  • Getting enough sleep (7-8 hours per day) in order to support the immune functions. 

“Thorough and frequent hand washing, avoiding touching your face, and social distancing remain the most effective means to avoid COVID-19 infection (or any other viral respiratory illnesses).”

For the latest AUB updates, please bookmark the committee’s webpage

To find out more about nutrition and health in the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit these trustworthy websites:

US Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 
British Dietetics Association Advice for the General Public


Carine J. Sakr, MD, MPH
Chair, Expert Committee on COVID-19


Original Message

​March 22 (President) Updates​​

Dear AUB students, faculty, and staff,

As we face this unprecedented public health crisis, it is our firm belief that the AUB community is best served by decisive leadership and clear communication. That way we can work together to take preventive measures guided by scientific evidence and to avoid unnecessary anxiety. 

The rate of new COVID-19 cases is increasing in Lebanon. We therefore urge our community to stay at home unless absolutely necessary to protect themselves and their families. Taking this action now will also help delay the exponential growth of the coronavirus in our country, with the obvious impact that would have on our health services. 

AUB has decided to implement tighter restrictions on access to campus, such that only essential employees in the least numbers possible will be admitted to campus. There should be no face-to-face campus meetings or shared occupancy of offices or labs. The only exception is for those whose work specifically relates to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The health of our community comes first in all our decision-making. However, there are many other critical considerations to address. These include how to improve the delivery of technologically supported learning and assessment, the possibility of amending our schedules and syllabi to accommodate the disruption, and whether and how to implement an optional pass/fail grading system, either for courses or the whole semester.  We understand some students have expressed concerns about remote proctoring tools. Please rest assured that AUB only releases new tools after proper communication with the students following a comprehensive evaluation. 

We are also working around the clock to ensure that connectivity issues do not compromise any individual’s ability to deliver their best, and to find ways of supporting our employees and their families through these difficult times. We shall communicate to you further on all these issues in the coming days, once the details have been ironed out and approved by the university’s administration and academic leadership. 

At a time of great tension, it is understandable that students will need to raise issues with their university. Please remember there are clear protocols to follow, starting with contacting their advisor, chairperson, or associate dean, before escalating to their dean, the provost, or myself. I am unable to respond to the hundreds of emails that I am currently receiving. But I would like to thank you for the kind and supportive messages that many of you have sent. For those who want to air their grievances, just remember the whole world is changing before our eyes. Try to see things in perspective and trust that we are doing everything possible to safeguard the university and its community.  

I want to reassure you that this health crisis will pass, as have its predecessors. There will be more stress and inconvenience, but through unity and mutual support, we shall come through it together, stronger, more resilient, and having learned new and valuable lessons about ourselves and those around us. 

In the meantime, please stay safe, and help yourselves, Lebanon, and the whole of humanity by staying at home.

Best regards, 

Fadlo R. Khuri, MD
President

Original Message​

​March 20 (President) Pandemic Evaluation Clinic and Center (PECC)​

Dear AUB community, 

It can take months of planning and preparation—or years, even—to establish a new clinical center from scratch, but thanks to the committed efforts of the dedicated AUBMC staff working in tight formation, the Pandemic Evaluation Cli​nic and Center (PECC) has been completed in just under 10 days. 

The PECC is housed in Building 56 between Maamari and Clemenceau streets. With its own entrance, the first floor is an outpatient facility for screening, assessment, and early identification of respiratory illness, including COVID-19. There are 11 newly designed individual negative pressure rooms for intensive care management and 10 intermediate care beds on the second floor. A regular unit of 21 individual rooms on the fourth floor has been assigned for stable patients, while additional support areas have been created throughout the building.  

To prepare Building 56 as the focal point for AUB’s clinical response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, existing functions and units had to be relocated and the AUBMC plant engineering department retrofitted the space to comply with international COVID-19 requirements. None of this would have been possible without the immense, round-the-clock efforts of numerous units, departments and disciplines at AUBMC, under the direction of a multidisciplinary coronavirus task force created at the Medical Center in February. 

Please join me in thanking the remarkable and diverse team that came together to achieve this vital feat of planning and execution to serve our patients in the face of an unprecedented public health emergency. Through it, our university and medical center are poised to play an important role in serving the people of Lebanon and the region.

Best regards, 

Fadlo R. Khuri, MD
President

Original Mess​age​

March 19 (Expert Committee) situation update​, beware rumors and speculation, and dealing with stress

Dear AUB community, 

We are writing to you as part of this committee’s continuing mission to keep our community informed about efforts to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. Please bookmark our new webpage which we shall be updating regularly. 

Situation update
AUB is playing a lead role in Lebanon’s collective campaign to delay or limit rapid growth of COVID-19 cases, in particular with the rigorous isolation and social distancing measures that President Khuri announced last week. 

Numbers of people on campus have been reduced to a fraction of former levels, while classes and administrative tasks are delivered via digital platforms.

Extensive infection control measures have been implemented throughout the Medical Center. A dedicated clinic to test patients for COVID-19 has been established in Building 56 by the Department of Family Medicine. 

It is premature to say how successful these efforts will prove at a national level. So far, one AUB employee has tested positive for COVID-19 after being exposed at home. A dossier of potential workplace exposures was immediately drawn up, known as “contact tracing,” and at-risk employees were prescribed self-quarantine. 

On a side note, the leadership of AUBMC, where the employee worked, adopted a fully transparent approach to informing the public about what had occurred, which is vital to building public trust in the Medical Center’s safeguards. 

Beware rumors and speculation 
As a community founded on education, the committee believes it is important for everyone at AUB to seek out and only share evidence-based information during a pandemic that is evolving so rapidly.

For lay people, that means trying to establish the source of information before sharing it on WhatsApp. Scientists, meanwhile, have particular responsibility to explain data, and be honest about what is not yet fully understood.

In this vacuum, the public—spurred on by irresponsible or poorly informed journalists—can easily seize upon sensational yet misleading information, which goes viral and even gets amplified by unwitting academicians filling gaps with unfounded speculation. 

This can create unnecessary anxiety and distract people from focusing on the real dangers and safeguards that we know work in situations such as this: frequent and thorough hand washing; avoiding touching the face with unwashed hands; social distancing; and honestly reporting your symptoms and travel history to your healthcare provider. 

With this in mind, we call on the AUB scientific community to take a lead in countering unfounded speculations and falsehoods around COVID-19. 

Dealing with stress
Handling a prolonged home confinement with minimal contact to the outside world will not be easy. Stress, anxiety, and negative thoughts could occur to any of us. The Lebanese Ps​ychological Association, whose executive includes two of our faculty, has circulated this set of recommendations to help people cope, including:

  1. Keep Things in Perspective. Evaluate the level of risk with a cool head; think about how you can protect against the virus with simple steps like washing your hands; remember humanity has survived many serious outbreaks before.
  2. Be Mindful—Stay in the Present: Recognize and avoid situations that fuel anxiety and seek those that keep you balanced. Process your reactions, and break downward cycles by mindful walking, slowed breathing, or simply doing nothing for a few minutes.
  3. Maintaining a routine can have a positive impact on thoughts and feelings. Continue safe activities and adjust others in line with new realities. For example, replace your weekly gathering with friends by a video call; or a child’s soccer practice by stretching or dancing at home. 

  4. Stay Connected: Make sure you receive and give support and care to others. This has a powerful effect on helping you cope. 
  5. Set Time Limits to Watching News or Being on Social Media: Consuming upsetting media coverage can unnecessarily intensify worry and agitation. Take regular breaks from the news or social media, especially if there's nothing new out there. Focus on things that are positive in your life and actions you have control over. 
For the moment, please stay safe by staying home. If you think you may be experiencing symptoms of respiratory infection, please call the Employee Health Unit on x3015 or email uhs@aub.edu.lb

Carine J. Sakr, MD, MPH
Chair, Expert Committee on COVID-19

Original Message​​

March 12 (President) suspension of in-person classes for 45 days, restricted access to campus, and new measures at AUBMC​

Dear AUB community, 

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared COVID-19 as a pandemic based on the rate and pattern of spread and severity of the disease. This compels AUB to step up its response to the COVID-19 challenge, while prioritizing our community’s health and academic continuity. The following measures will apply until further notice:

Students, faculty, and staff
1. From Saturday, March 14, access to AUB campus will be limited to faculty members, resident employees and students, and a skeleton staff to keep the university operational. Certain other individuals may be allowed on campus with special permission. Managers will implement a rotation system to reduce staff numbers on campus. Those able to work from home should do so.

2. All international business-related travel for all AUB faculty, staff and administrators commencing after Sunday, March 15, 2020 will be discontinued.

3. All personal travel must be reported and approved on an emergent basis by a dean or senior AUB leader. 

4. All AUB community members in contact with individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19, or returning from CDC Level 3-designated countries of the pandemic, must self-quarantine for 14 days. Please check this link for an updated list of countries. 

Students and faculty
5. Although the campus will be closed, we shall continue our use of technology-enhanced learning to replace physical classes for the next 45 days. We shall communicate if this period needs to be extended 15 days before the suspension expires. 

6. Faculty and instructors shall explore different options for exams and assessments and inform the students about any changes in due course. 

Resident and international students  
7. Dorm residents who are able to live with their families in Lebanon or the region should make preparations to go home.

8. International students should make preparations to return to their home countries. Those who cannot travel for valid reasons will be accommodated in our dorms.

9. Two dorms will remain open: Penrose Hall (for men) and the Off-Campus Dorms (for women). Students in other dorms will be asked to move to one of the above.  

AUBMC
10. The Medical Center will remain fully operational, although with limits on visitor numbers and enhanced measures at entrances to check for exposure of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses.

11. Building 56 is being designated as the receiving center for COVID-19 patients to support a nationally coordinated response to the disease. 

12. ​Patients with recent foreign travel will be asked to postpone elective appointments as per the directives of the AUBMC administration. 

As we have stated before, it is normal to be anxious about a new disease, even one that leads to severe or critical illness in a small number of cases. The best way to counter this is to educate ourselves and those around us about evidence-based preventive measures on how to avoid infecting ourselves and others. 

Please rely on authoritative resources such as our own Expert Committee on COVID-19, the CDC, or the WH​O

Do not circulate unsourced rumors that could spread panic or misinformation. 

If you think you may have been exposed to COVID-19 or other respiratory disease, please stay at home and contact the Employee Health Unit (x3015 or email). 

Best regards, 

Fadlo R. Khuri, MD
President

Original Mes​sage​

March 12 (Protection Office) restricted access to campus

Dear All, 

As a follow-up to President Khuri’s message yesterday about limiting the numbers of people on campus in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, please be advised that the following measures will be implemented starting Saturday, March 14, 2020:

Pedestrian access will be restricted to:
  • The Main Gate, Corporation Yard, and the Medical Gate
  • Faculty and staff 
  • Students with special permission by e-mail from their deans
Vehicular access will be limited to:
  • Bliss Parking for the upper campus
  • OSB parking for the lower campus
  • Sea Gate will be restricted for campus residents and their guests after resident’s approval 
Please note you will be required to present a valid AUB ID in order to enter campus. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.

Best regards, 

R. General Fadi Ghorayeb
Chief of Protection


March 11 (Expert Committee) advisory on international t​ravel

​​Dear faculty, staff, and students,

This travel advisory is effective immediately and should continue until the global spread of novel coronavirus COVID-19 decreases. The expert committee (EC) recommends the following:

  1. ​All AUB faculty, staff, and students should consider postponing all nonessential international travel until further notice.
  2. All business travel to countries listed under the CDC’s Level 3 travel health notices should be postponed, unless authorized by the AUB president, the provost, or your dean as appropriate.
  3. Any employee returning from a Level 3-designated country will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days after their return, regardless of the purpose of travel or the status of that country when they left Lebanon.
  4. All faculty, staff, and students returning from a trip outside Lebanon should promptly contact the Employee Health Unit (x3015 or em​ail) to communicate their travel itinerary upon return, to establish if quarantine is necessary.

Please note that while four countries are currently listed on the CDC Level 3 travel advisory—China, Iran, Italy, and South Korea—new destinations may be added at very short notice. Travel has already been restricted between Lebanon and some destinations that have witnessed widespread transmission of the COVID-19 virus. Therefore, travel to any destination at the present time may result in the passenger being unable to return to Lebanon for an indefinite period. 
  
While it is necessary to articulate recommendations regarding international travel, the EC emphasizes that all data show the COVID-19 virus remains contained in Lebanon and is still not causing widespread or ongoing community spread in the population at large. Although there is no room for complacency, the risk of infection by COVID-19 as you go about your business is currently low in Lebanon, particularly if you follow the simple rules for handwashing, coughing and sneezing etiquette, and “social distancing” that are being circulated. For more information, please visit the committee’s web page

Carine J. Sakr, MD, MPH
Chair, Expert Committee on COVID-19

Original Me​ssage

March 10 (Expert Committee) update on situation in Lebanon and new measures at AUB and AUBMC​

Dear faculty, staff, and students,

We are committed to keeping the AUB community informed about the coronavirus COVID-19 and would like to update you with the following message about developments in Lebanon and at AUB.
 
Update on the current situation in Lebanon
All data show that the COVID-19 virus remains contained in Lebanon and it is still not causing widespread or ongoing community spread in the population at large. Until now, the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) has been able to trace contacts of confirmed cases through continuous monitoring at the airport and borders with a dedicated team of 25 nurses and 10 physicians. Individuals in self-quarantine are being monitored closely for COVID-19 symptoms while the Rafik Hariri University Hospital is performing daily testing of suspected COVID-19 cases and monitoring the recovery of quarantined patients. 

The government has also been active in pooling relevant resources from among health professionals, international and regional health organizations, and academic institutions, including AUB. With the virus contained in this way, the risk of infection by COVID-19 as you go about your business is currently low, particularly if you follow the simple handwashing, coughing and sneezing etiquette, and “social distancing” rules included at the end of this message. However, there is no room for complacency.

Although the virus is contained, the nature of the COVID-19 outbreak determines that its status could change rapidly. It is essential that citizens follow carefully the recommendations and official information coming from authorities such as the MOPH, AUB, and other public health institutions.

Knowing the facts about the disease and how to respond could mean that, if a COVID-19 spreads in Lebanon, we can work together to reduce the impact, shortening the duration of the outbreak and reducing the number of people infected.

It is everyone’s responsibility to protect people who are most vulnerable, as this disease may cause respiratory failure or other complications in a small proportion of the population.

Therefore, it is extremely important that everyone who has been in contact with a patient with COVID-19 reaches out to the health authorities, so appropriate action can be taken to contain the disease for as long as possible. 

We advise also to reduce or limit non-essential travel abroad, to reduce the risk of being exposed to this and other viruses. The committee is working on a full travel advisory which will be published soon. 

New measures at AUB and AUBMC
AUB has adopted a responsible and balanced policy of keeping the campus open but suspending physical lessons and moving teaching online (see President Khuri’s message). Cleaning surfaces has been stepped up and larger meetings and events have been cancelled or postponed for the time being. Our faculty have meanwhile been critically engaged with government and international health bodies, and the Medical Center is ready in case private hospitals are called on to take coronavirus patients. 

All faculty, staff, and students should inform the University Health Services (x3015 or via email) if they have come in contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case or if they have travelled to countries that have experienced a COVID-19 epidemic. So far about a small number of AUB employees have been advised to self-quarantine for 14 days, during which time they are monitored for symptoms of the coronavirus, which are fever, dry cough, or breathing difficulties. So far no member of the AUB/AUBMC community has tested positive. 

To increase awareness among employees, members of the committee have been briefing teams around campus. As the COVID-19 awareness campaign is continuing on social media, helpful signage is also being introduced in toilets and employee punching machines (wintime). 

Carine J. Sakr, MD, MPH 
Chair, Expert Committee on COVID-19

March 7 (President) coronavirus update and continued suspension of in-person classes

Dear members of the AUB community, 
 
Greetings and salutations to you all. I hope you are having a peaceful weekend. 
 
Based on the best evidence and advice available to us at this time, and in coordination with our sister institutions USJ and LAU, we have decided to extend the suspension of classes and examinations on the AUB campus until further notice. We shall continue to work on improving our online delivery and uptake of classes to meet our educational objectives. All face-to-face on-campus meetings will be confined to groups of 20 people or fewer as per expert guidelines. 
 
While Lebanon has 22 documented cases of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 to date, the recommendations of national and international health agencies have lacked clarity and consistency. This compels us to work with our own experts to develop clear, consistent, and evidence-based approaches to containment and mitigation of the spread of the coronavirus. It behooves us to proceed with the utmost caution as our community includes those at risk of harm from infection with the COVID-19 virus, or who share households with them, including older people, the immune compromised, and people who are vulnerable medically.
 
Any members of our community who have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus, either in Lebanon, or while visiting countries with widespread person-to-person transmission, China, Iran, Italy, South Korea, France, Spain , and Germany, in the last 14 days should contact the University Health Services by phone (x3015) or email ​and go into self-quarantine. Meetings between healthy, unexposed individuals should be held in clean, disinfected, and well-ventilated premises or outdoors. 
 
Please note that with online learning at our disposal, we fully intend to complete the semester on or around the first week of June. 
 
Best regards,  
 
Fadlo R. Khuri, MD
President​


March 6 (President) timeframe for decision on further suspension of classes

Dear AUB students, 
 
As many of you have been asking whether classes will resume next week, I want to inform you that we shall make a coordinated decision on Saturday evening following discussions with the minister of education and higher education and the presidents of our sister universities Université Saint-Joseph and the Lebanese American University. We will communicate the decision to you shortly thereafter on email, the AUB website, and social media. 
 
The global spread of coronavirus COVID-19 is a dynamic and rapidly changing phenomenon that develops day by day. In Lebanon, it remains contained to a small number of cases connected to travel abroad and it has not begun transmission through the population at large. 
 
All of us share a duty to help contain this coronavirus infection, so please make sure you have read and are following the instructions of our expert committee on COVID-19. 
 
Best regards, 
 
Fadlo R. Khuri, MD
President

Original Message


March 5 (Expert Committee) coronavirus FAQs, how to protect yourself, and what AUB is doing


​Dear faculty, staff, and students,

Please read this message carefully as it contains important information about limiting the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19 in Lebanon and at AUB.

What you need to know about COVID-19
COVID-19 is a new kind of coronavirus respiratory infection that first occurred in China in December 2019. The virus is now spreading from person-to-person around the world accelerated by international passenger travel. Most countries still have limited number of cases, but four—China, Iran, Italy, and South Korea—have seen COVID-19 epidemics with widespread, sustained transmission in the community. You can find updated country information here

The virus reached Lebanon in the third week of February but it has not yet been transmitted widely among the population. Cases are being treated in isolation at the Rafik Hariri University Hospital (RHUH) and people arriving from the four countries with epidemics have been told to stay at home (self-quarantine) for 14 days to monitor the development  of COVID-19 symptoms—fever, cough, shortness of breath—and to prevent infecting other people. 

The most probable way to transmit the virus is by close contact (2 meters or less) with an infected person who spreads droplets when they cough or sn​eeze. People may also be infected by touching something contaminated by COVID-19 virus and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes. The best ways for reducing the transmission of the virus are keeping a distance from sick people, and washing your hands thoroughly and frequently with soap and water (for at least 40 seconds).

How serious is this disease
Most infected people (>80 percent) experience mild symptoms only. Critical cases tend to arise among older people with pre-existing conditions, such as heart or lung disease, or diabetes. 
Globally, as of March 4, 2020 the WHO reports 93,090 confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection and 3,198 deaths. The majority of patients are recovering and critical/severe cases are mainly observed among older people and patients with pre-existing medical conditions. New infections seem to be slowing in China after two and a half months and public health specialists are looking to see if the pattern is repeated in other epidemic centers.   

What is AUB doing?
As a university community, we have a responsibility to educate ourselves and those around us about how to take appropriate measures to prevent COVID-19 becoming an epidemic in Lebanon. Encouraging awareness about the disease will help people remain calm and take the right measures to avoid infection. Classes are being conducted online in compliance with a government decision, but the campus is not closed in the absence of sustained local transmission of COVID-19. 

AUBMC is preparing to support national efforts to treat COVID-19 cases if the disease spreads significantly. Suspected cases are currently being transferred to RHUH. Meanwhile, the AUB leadership has appointed this expert committee on COVID-19 to review current and likely scenarios and recommend the most appropriate steps to take to address the challenges that the COVID-19 outbreak presents. The committee will also coordinate public awareness efforts such as this message. 

Were you in a COVID-19 hotspot? What should you do?
If you or a member of your household have returned from China, Iran, Italy, or South Korea in the last 14 days, you should inform the Employee Health Unit at the University Health Service (x3015) and isolate yourself at home (self-quarantine) for 14 days. That means staying at home and avoiding close contact with family members. The same condition applies to any employee/student who has knowingly come into close contact (2 meters or less) with someone who has recently visited any of these countries. More information on how to self-isolate can be accessed here.

If you experience symptoms of COVID-19 infection (fever, cough, breathing difficulties), you should immediately call the Employee Health Unit (x3015). 

How can you protect yourself and others from the virus?
  1. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 40 seconds; before and after eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. (See CDC han​dwashing video.) Use alcohol-based (with at least 60% alcohol) hand sanitizer (for 20 seconds) if soap and water are unavailable.
  2. Refrain from touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  3. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces including phones and computers (with disinfecting wipes).
  4. Catch coughs and sneezes in a disposable napkin and throw it away, then wash your hands immediately—or cough/sneeze in the crook of the elbow, then wash your clothes as soon as possible.
  5. Stay home if you are ill—do not go to work or classes.
  6. If you need medical attention, call your doctor instead of going directly to the hospital, clinic, or pharmacy, as you can infect others this way.
  7. If you are not ill, keep a distance from people who are unwell or people who have traveled to the countries mentioned above.
  8. Do not use facemasks if you are not sick, since they are not recommended for healthy people to avoid respiratory viruses including COVID-19. Masks can be used if you are caring for an ill person or if you are ill. 

Thank you for your attention. The expert committee will continue to monitor the spread of COVID-19 and will provide you with regular updates. 

Carine J. Sakr, MD, MPH 
Chair, Expert Committee on COVID-19

Original Message​

March 3 (President) membership and charge of expert committee on novel coronavirus COVID-19

​Dear AUB Community,

I am writing to update you about our annou​n​cement on Saturday of the formation of an expert committee on the novel coronavirus COVID-19 to enable our university to adopt coordinated and evidence-based measures for containing the virus and mitigating its impact at AUB and in the community more broadly.

The committee, which held its first meeting yesterday, draws together wide-ranging AUB expertise in a number specialist areas covering community and family medicine, emergency medicine, health policy and management, infectious disease control, nursing, and virology. It also includes a communications component in recognition of the importance of raising public awareness in confronting the spread of the virus in Lebanon. Membership is as follows:

Dr. Carine Sakr, Faculty of Medicine (Chair)
Mr. Martin Asser, Office of Communications
Dr. Marco Bardus, Faculty of Health Sciences
Ms. Rita Doudakian, University Health Services, AUBMC
Dr. Gladys Honein, Rafik Hariri School of Nursing
Dr. Fadi Jardali, Faculty of Health Sciences
Dr. Souha Kanj, Faculty of Medicine
Dr. Nada Melhem, Faculty of Health Sciences
Ms. Abir Salam, AUBMC Communications
Dr. Mazen El Sayed, Faculty of Medicine
 
The committee will meet regularly to review current and likely scenarios and advise the AUB leadership on the most appropriate steps to take as the coronavirus outbreak develops. Its first task will be to focus on next steps following the temporary suspension of classes and other student-related activities on campus and how to minimize chances of contagion between members of our community.

In the meantime, I continue to appeal to everyone to stay calm and to carefully follow the guidelines being promulgated by authorized bodies including the W​​orld Health Organization, which I relayed in yesterday's President Perspective message.


Best regards,

Fadlo R. Khuri, MD
President

Original Message​​

March 1 (President) in-person classes and student activities suspended for one week

Dear AUB C​ommunity, 

I am writing to inform you that following discussions between the minister of education and Lebanon’s leading private universities—AUB, LAU, and USJ—we have agreed to suspend all student-related activities on campus for one week from March 2, 2020 as part of national efforts to contain the novel coronavirus COVID-19. 

We have taken this step in compliance with the government’s decision, to provide an opportunity to educate the public and our own community about coronavirus, and to reassure students and parents who had expressed concerns about the safety of their children. Classes will be delivered online while the libraries and Charles Hostler Student Center will close. Faculty and staff are expected to report to work as usual. 

Anxiety about coronavirus is understandable but the government has informed us that as of today the virus is not widespread in Lebanon. We encourage our students, faculty, and staff to take the lead in educating themselves about the symptoms of the disease, knowing which groups are at high risk, and following the simple steps you can take to avoid being infected or infecting others. 

Please check the AUB website and follow us on social media for further updates.​

Best regards,

Fadlo R. Khuri, MD
President

Original Message​​

February 29 (President) update and announcement of expert committee​

Dear AUB Community, 
 
Following the latest developments regarding the coronavirus in Lebanon, I feel it is vitally important to explain measures our university is currently taking to protect our community and help contain the spread of this disease in the country.
 
At present, there are a very limited number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 being treated in isolation at the Rafik Hariri University Hospital and the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) has said Lebanon is still in the containment phase of this outbreak. However, the disease will likely spread further, either from people visiting infected areas abroad or being exposed to the virus here. It is necessary, therefore, for healthcare providers to be on high alert for new coronavirus cases and for citizens to be educated about how to protect themselves and others, recognize the symptoms, and take proper action in case of infection.
 
In order to strengthen AUB’s response, we have formed an expert committee on coronavirus that includes specialist faculty and staff from our Faculty of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, Rafik Hariri School of Nursing, and AUBMC. This committee will advise the university leadership on all aspects of tackling the disease and mitigating its impact, and it will monitor efforts to keep our community and the public informed about what they can do to stay safe. We shall continue to liaise with our MOPH colleagues, as well as with the regional and local leadership of the WHO. 
 
After extensive consultations, AUB has concluded that the available facts in Lebanon do not justify a large scale home quarantine imposed selectively on educational establishments. This may change, however, so please consult the AUB website and follow us on social media platforms for the latest information.
 
As Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organisation, said in his statement ​yesterday: "Our greatest enemy right now is not the virus itself. It's fear, rumors and stigma. And our greatest assets are facts, reason and solidarity." We fully endorse this viewpoint and will play our role accordingly.
 
Best regards, 
 
Fadlo R. Khuri, MD
President





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