COVID-19 FAQ

◼ Image credit: CDC/ Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAM / Public domain. ◼ URL: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:SARS-CoV-2_without_background.png

The following is a list of frequently asked questions about COVID-19. For the latest Graduate School-related updates on COVD-19, please refer to the Graduate School COVID-19 Response page.

Safety on Campus
  • What measures are in place to protect students at IST Austria?

    Keeping all of our students safe is a top priority for us. We follow the latest government recommendations and update our procedures anytime there is a change. At all times though, you  can expect the following:

    • Regular updates: information about the developing situation in Austria, as well as the latest guidance on hygiene and behavior on campus, are published in the weekly campus-wide coronavirus update. Once you receive your IST Austria email address, you will automatically receive these updates.
    • Good infection control: all public surfaces on campus and on the IST shuttle bus are regularly disinfected, especially those that are touched often (door handles, light switches, furniture, elevator buttons, handrails, taps and dispensers, phones, etc.). Perspex screens have also been installed in reception and service areas.
    • Hand washing facilities are available all across campus and hand sanitizer dispensers are situated at major entrances. In the IST shuttle bus, a hand sanitizer dispenser can be found at the front of the bus and can be used to disinfect your hands or any surfaces you touch.
    • The office of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) provides support with questions about hygiene and safety on campus, and, in the case of a suspected infection or possible exposure, works together with the Austrian health authorities to do contact tracing.
    • An occupational physician is on campus once per week to support you with your health needs (important: in case of suspected covid-19 infection, please STAY AT HOME and call the Austrian national health hotline at 1450, available 24/7 with English-speaking operators. Please also contact EHS at IST Austria).
    • All IST Austria employees and visitors are expected to abide by general hygiene and behavior regulations (see below), which are continuously reviewed and adapted if necessary.
  • What are the general hygiene and behavior regulations on campus?

    For a full list of up-to-date hygiene and behavior regulations for on-campus activities please refer to the EHS website: https://ehs.pages.ist.ac.at/rules-on-campus-activities/

    In all cases:

    • Avoid close personal contact outside of a small regular circle (housemates, family, etc.)
    • Wear a face mask in any social situation (be it indoors or outdoors) whenever appropriate. Wherever social distancing (>1m) is not feasible, face masks are absolutely mandatory.
    • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
    • Stay at home at the slightest indication of feeling unwell, call the Austrian national health hotline at 1450 for a test, inform EHS at ehs@lists.ist.ac.at, and notify your supervisor.

    The format of on-campus activities (in-person, online-only, or hybrid) may change depending on the evolving coronavirus situation in Austria and at the Institute, and instructions will be issued accordingly. However, in all scenarios and wherever possible, we have accommodations in place that allow for remote-only participation.

  • Where can I get up-to-date information about changing regulations?

    IST Austria publishes a weekly coronavirus update with information about the developing situation in Austria and at the Institute, as well as the latest hygiene and behavior recommendations on campus. Once you receive your IST Austria email address, you will automatically receive these updates.

    In addition, the EHS website (https://ehs.pages.ist.ac.at) provides the full-list of current regulations and recommendations, as well as a history of all updates.

    The Vienna-based publication “Metropole” offers a daily update in English on COVID-related news, developments, rules and regulations: https://metropole.at/coronavirus-in-austria/

  • What should I do if I feel ill or had contact with a person who is (potentially) infected?
    1. Stay at home
    2. Call 1450 (omitting any area code): the Austrian national health hotline is reachable 24/7 and has operators available in English
    3. Call +43 2243 9000-1087 or -2244: EHS at IST Austria

    Environment, Health and Safety (EHS, from inside IST: ext. 1087 or 2244, from outside IST: +43 2243 9000 1087 or +43 2243 9000 2244 or EHS@lists.ist.ac.at) has to be informed immediately in the following cases:

    • A student feels sick with respiratory symptoms or fever, either on or off campus.
    • A student has been in contact with a person who is infected or potentially infected, i.e. is waiting for test results.
    • A student has tested positive for COVID-19.

    In most cases it will be necessary to inform the national health service (24h hotline) for further instructions (call 1450, omitting any area code). English speaking operators are available.

    In case a student is being tested and/or subject to quarantine (currently 10 days) they must inform EHS who will then inform the Graduate School.

    If a student is being tested and/or tested positive, EHS will initiate contact tracing on campus, which might lead to preventive quarantine for others who were in direct contact (defined as contact with the infected person for > 15 min. at < 2m distance).

  • I’m in a high-risk group. Are there measures in place to protect me?

    Individuals with certain underlying health conditions have a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Students who think they might belong to a high risk group should contact their physician (or the on-campus occupational physician) and inform EHS (from inside IST: ext. 1087 or 2244, from outside IST: +43 2243 9000 1087 or +43 2243 9000 2244, or EHS@lists.ist.ac.at) accordingly. Specific measures to protect the student’s health (such as increased home office) may be implemented.

Arrival/Traveling
  • I am unable to travel to Austria for the orientation/ start of the semester. Can I still start my studies?

    Yes, you can attend all courses that are offered in remote or mixed mode. Please inform the Gradudate School Office if this is the case and provide us with a valid mobile phone number. IT will then contact you with your IST IT credentials and further information on how to access IST resources. However please note that we can only start your contract upon your arrival in Austria.

  • At one point I want to travel home to my family. What should I be aware of?

    Travel restrictions apply according to the Austrian foreign ministry. As entry regulations keep changing, please familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations of the country you are traveling to, as well as the entry requirements to Austria shortly before your return.  During your first year, please inform Vlad Cozac of any of your out-of-country travel plans in advance.

On Campus: Practical Matters
  • Is it possible to self-quarantine in on-campus accommodation?

    Yes. In the event that self-quarantine is necessary, Campus Services will provide a starter kit with bedsheets and towels, dishes and cutlery, and other essentials so that new tenants do not have to go out and buy these themselves. In addition, Graduate School buddies (student volunteers assigned to each student) can help with organizing grocery or medication deliveries if necessary.

  • Is the IST Austria cafeteria open?

    The cafeteria is currently open (this may change as the situation evolves). Hygiene measures include the removal of self-service sections (e.g. salad bar), and the requirement to wear a mask in the food serving area.

  • Are the sports facilities on campus open?

    Currently (this may change as the situation evolves), sports facilities on campus are open, but have special hygiene and behavior regulations. This includes the indoor gym room, outdoor gym, outdoor soccer field, and outdoor volleyball court. Please check the EHS website for the latest regulations.

During Orientation
  • Are we allowed to meet people in big groups?

    IST does not organize any offline events for big groups of people (>10) this year. While we obviously cannot prevent you from participating in big gatherings outside of campus, we kindly ask you to exercise good judgement and avoid massive social interactions and crowded places.

  • What help can I expect from my buddy?

    There is a so-called “buddy system” for all incoming students whereby each new student is paired up with one of our current graduate students. Buddies are volunteers who will try their best to help you or point you in the right direction, in case you need help.

    Buddies are a great source of official and unofficial information on campus. They usually are happy to help you get along, answer your practical questions about life in Austria and studies at IST. Do not hesitate to turn to them in case you have questions.

Teaching and Classes
  • Will classes be held online or in person?

    Classes may be handled in one of the following modes, according to the decision of the course instructor(s):

    • entirely online;
    • in a mixed-mode, with some components online and others in-person
    • in-person lectures and recitations.

    The Graduate School recommends no more than 10 people in class, larger classes being held  online .

    All in-person classes should give an option for remote participation, both to reduce density on campus, and so that students who feel slightly unwell or are in quarantine can still participate.

  • Where can I find information about which classes will be held online or in person?

    You can find all updated information regarding any class on the Moodle course website.

  • What are the safety recommendations for in-person classes?

    Please keep a safe distance from your colleagues (>1 m) and/or wear a mask. In case you feel slightly sick please stay at home and join the class remotely.

    The Graduate School recommends no more than 10 people in class, larger classes being held  online .

    Seating arrangements in all classrooms will be adjusted so that the necessary distance is maintained and the maximum capacity of each room is observed.

    All in-person classes should provide an option for remote participation, both to reduce density on campus, and so that students who feel slightly unwell or are in quarantine can still participate.

  • As an instructor (faculty or TA), where can I get information or technical support for remote teaching?

    Please contact the Graduate School Office in advance for booking the room with proper technical equipment. In case you have questions about using the equipment please contact IT Support.

Research and Rotations
  • Will rotations be held online or in-person?

    This will depend on the field you are working in and on the group leader.  It can be in one of the following modes:

    • entirely online
    • in a mixed mode, with some components remote, other in-person
    • entirely in-person mode (lab work)

    When discussing rotation options, please clarify the mode in which the rotation will take place.

    The Graduate School encourages remote rotation work when possible, but recognizes that rotations should include some in-person interaction with the supervisor and the host group.

    Students rotating in-person with research groups must follow all group and IST rules.

  • Is it safe to be in the lab? Are there any restrictions or hygiene recommendations?

    We recommend everyone to adhere strictly to the lab rules. In addition, responsible personnel should make sure a safe distance is maintained whenever possible and masks are worn.

  • As a rotation student, how can I get a good feeling for the research group atmosphere if it’s all online?

    Do not hesitate to reach out to group members be it students, interns or postdocs. Be proactive, ask questions, interact as much as possible.

  • How can I find out about which research groups are hosting rotation students?

    It is always a good idea to ask a research group leader if they have a rotation slot open before registering for rotation. Additional good questions would be whether a research group leader plans to affiliate students this academic year and what would be most important for you to do if you wish to affiliate with the group.

Qualifying Exams and Thesis Defenses
  • Are Qualifying Exams and Thesis Defenses online only or are in-person audiences allowed?

    Qualifying exams and PhD Thesis defenses may be held either entirely online or with student and exam/thesis committee and chair present in person. The public is allowed to join only remotely.

  • How should I collect signatures if the Qualifying Exam or the Thesis Defense is online-only?

    The exam/defense protocol would normally be physically signed and sent to the Graduate School Office; if some committee members participate remotely, electronic signatures are accepted.

Mental Health and Support
  • What support is available to students?

    Our Health Services offer counseling and mental health advice throughout the year. Under COVID restrictions, services and resources will be offered mostly online.

    Our occupational psychologist is available to meet virtually with students.

    An occupational physician (general doctor) is on campus once per week.

    To schedule an appointment with our psychologist, write an email to samira@baig.at; for an appointment with our physician please contact Ursula.prandstaetter@ist.ac.at. To explore the range of services available, visit the website of the Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) office: https://ehs.pages.ist.ac.at

    It is also important to stay informed and connected. IST has set up a specific COVID section on the EHS website: https://ehs.ist.ac.at/corona-virus-information/. As a member of the IST community, you have access to a specifically designed mailing list to exchange information about the COVID situation in Austria and at the institute.

    Students can also receive support from our Good Practice Officer (GPO) and from the IST Support Group. For more information about this, visit https://ehs.pages.ist.ac.at/feeling-alone/

    We will continue to update resource pages as new information becomes available.

  • Who is eligible for counselling?

    Students enrolled or soon to be enrolled at IST Austria can get in touch with the Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) office:https://ehs.pages.ist.ac.at/corona-virus-information/#let-us-know-if-you-need-help

  • Is support from EHS confidential?

    Our Health Services are legally required to uphold professional standards of confidentiality; this means that they cannot release information about the content of your counseling appointments without your written consent.

  • Do I need to pay for these services?

    No fees are charged for our counseling services.

  • What if I need immediate help?

    If you are in an urgent situation, please contact the following 24-Hour off-campus services:

    • The emergency telephone number 142 (Telefonseelsorge) provides 24hrs crisis counselling (in German).  Counselling is also available via mail or chat.
    • Telephone number : (01) – 31330 Psychiatric Immediate Help / Psychiatrische Soforthilfe (in German).

    Life threatening emergencies:  Call 112 (European Emergency Phone Number (EU-wide)).

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