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DOS Update #16 - To wear or not to wear

  PUBLISHED: 12 February 2020, 7:00 p.m.

DOS UPDATE #16 - To wear or not to wear

Updates:

  1. Two students remain in GQF. They are well and show no symptoms.
  2. Professors can see whether you have logged in your temperature declarations – so please do declare.
  3. Please DO NOT come to campus if you have a cough. Please wear a mask, and go home to rest or see a doctor
Updated at 11:00 p.m. : An ambulance had earlier been called for a student on LOA with fever. She has been hospitalised for a minor condition, not related to COVID-19.

Dear Students:

Fit-for-Class Dashboard

DOS-update-16

Fit-for-Class dashboard which teaching staff can access to see which students are unqualified to attend class. Image: NUS IT 

We have launched the new Fit-for-Class Dashboard that will highlight to your teaching staff the students who are unqualified to attend class – either because you are on Leave of Absence (LOA), running a fever, or have yet to declare your temperature. 

Access to this dashboard will only be via staff NUSNET ID login. The intention for this dashboard is to protect the wider NUS community.  

(1) Students, whilst on LOA, should not be attending classes on campus.  

(2) Students and staff with a fever should see a doctor and stay away from class. 

(3) All staff and students have to take their temperature and log it online before coming to campus. 

If your name appears, and you have not taken your temperature, you will be directed to one of the temperature checking stations on campus, and be “reminded of your responsibility to check on temperature” and then be allowed to join the class. 

One of the behaviours that may seem to be inconsistent across NUS is the wearing of masks. As I had said in my previous update, I do not think that a hard and fast rule is helpful. 

So I thought I will highlight a question and a post by Professor Danny Quah, Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.  

A/P Leong Ching 
NUS Dean of Students 

#QOTD Questions of the Day

Question: “I wanted to know about the "official" rules of whether we are entitled to wear masks (N95) in class if we feel more comfortable to do so? Most of the professors let me wear a mask in class, but for one of them, he asked me to remove it. I wanted to know if a professor has the right to ask me to remove it, and if not, to which "official" rules I can point them to.” 

Facebook post by Professor Danny Quah 

Now and then I hear speculation that people are being told not to wear masks because (whispering) "there won't be enough to go around". Since masks don't last forever, demand for them over time is unbounded: no finite supply will ever "be enough to around". Instead, common sense and good personal hygiene will go a long way to protect yourself as well as those around you. 

Over the years, the evidence that has accumulated, from literature meta-surveys and from practice in the field, suggests that good hygiene — wash your hands vigorously; apply sanitisers — are highly effective against the spread of respiratory viruses. Certainly, surgical masks have a role to play but unless you're in a situation of focused contact, their efficacy can only be imperfect and will deteriorate, from social engineering factors as much as inappropriate usage. 

Breathing through masks is uncomfortable, and without proper care, masks don't seal perfectly and you are likely to remove them improperly. Used over a period of time, masks get contaminated, so unless you keep replacing them, you could be getting a concentrated hit of piled-up bacteria that, otherwise, might dissipate harmlessly. What your mouth and nose emit eventually cover the inside of your mask: that attracts bacteria... and, when you think about it for a second, is actually pretty disgusting. 

Of course, if someone around you is coughing and sneezing, do ask them to wear a mask. Someone wearing a mask is to protect you from them, not them from you. So, if you are coughing and sneezing, please do put on a mask: You tell the world you care about their well-being, but except in specific circumstances, it's not to protect yourself. 

NUS Dean of Students Leong Ching updated yesterday evening on our colleague Prof KK Phoon's description of the ALARP Principle, i.e., "As Low As Reasonably Practicable". In every situation of risk, weigh up costs and benefits: act when the ratio between them is out of the realm of ordinary experience. Balancing out costs and benefits, drawing on rational thinking and a firm evidence base, has got to be always the right approach. 

Jefferson, T. et al. 2011. Physical interventions to interrupt or reduce the spread of respiratory viruses. Cochrane Library (July) doi:10.1002/14651858.CD006207.pub4 
Rosenthal, Elisabeth. 2020. How to Avoid the Coronavirus? Wash Your Hands. New York Times (28 Jan) https://www.nytimes.com/…/…/coronavirus-prevention-tips.html