Although South Korea has been internationally praised for maintaining a relatively low number of COVID-19 cases, the crisis of the escalating COVID-19 situation is deepening with the recent drastic spikes in confirmed cases. Authorities placed Seoul under Alert Level 2 on Aug. 19, and in less than ten days, raised Korea to Level 2.5, requiring the physical attendance of schools, hagwons, and large gatherings to be prohibited by law. According to the Infectious Disease Division at Korea University Ansan Hospital, a third wave may come soon, as patients with the COVID-19 drastically rise by the hundreds each day.
“Although we are hoping for a de-escalation in this pandemic, it is key to respond, react, and communicate efficiently on a daily and weekly basis,” said James Gerhard, the high school principal. “We want to be able to respond with quick yet thoughtful decisions with all the information we have. After experiences with closing campuses in other international school contexts, for health or natural disaster reasons, I have found that keeping alert and communicating well are the keys to protecting the safety of the community, the facilities, the people, and the traditions of the school.”
As COVID-19 has escalated to Level 2.5 in Korea, the government has proclaimed stricter regulations, affecting all ages. One such alteration that has impacted educators and students was made on Aug. 25, as authorities obliged schools to shift online. Another alteration was made in the beginning of August, temporarily forcing large franchises to ban customers from eating on-site. Although officials state that these restrictions will be loosened on Sept. 21, this date remains uncertain, leaving many plans in doubt.
“At the moment, the escalating situation of COVID-19 is impacting my season to run,” said Eunice Rhee (10), a varsity cross-country runner. “Because there are uncertainties regarding whether we are allowed to go back to campus, the fall season is cut short, which does not give me the opportunity to grow as a runner as much as I hoped. Due to the fact that cross country is a sport that usually takes place outside, it is not necessarily the ‘ideal’ sport that people, including myself, would participate in, especially when the number of cases are rising.”
Demographer and sociologist of the Berkeley Population Center, Leora Lawton, foreshadows the drawbacks of the continual spread of the epidemic. She states that the long-term effects of children growing up with long hours of screen time will be consequential. Early signs are rather discouraging as children’s attention spans have decreased, while levels of anxiety and depression have increased. However, there are also optimistic views on how the virus will affect society. Justin Lessler, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Health, asserts that this pandemic will provide a safer life for people as authorities will come to understand the significance of efficiently making meticulous solutions at a time like this.
“COVID-19 has engendered positive and harmful impacts for everyone, or at least in SIS,” explained Yoonseo Kim (10), a sophomore who has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. “In a way, I feel like the spread of this disease caused a positive shift in a lot of people as this was a time of realization that allowed for individual growth and deeper respect for the people surrounding us. But this epidemic is troubling in a way where our social lives are essentially ‘cut-off’ and strained due to the lack of physical interaction.”