Chinese students weigh in on reactions to coronavirus outbreak

Rayna Song, Reporter

COVID-19 News

Northwestern students and staff have shown concern and support for Chinese citizens in light of the recent coronavirus outbreak.

Novel coronavirus, also known as 2019-nCoV, is a respiratory virus first identified in Wuhan, China in December 2019. Within two months, it spread to Europe, North America and beyond, resulting in thousands of reported cases and more than 300 deaths in China alone.

Students like Yurui Wu, a Medill freshman from Beijing, said they witnessed widespread impacts in China.

“People are not going out as often, they are just staying home, or they had travel plans and they canceled them,” Wu said.

There is wide speculation about the origin of the virus, and most media sources have pointed to Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, where a high concentration of the virus was detected. However, a recent study published in the medical journal The Lancet disputes this fact, concluding that the first case of the virus may have preceded its discovery in the market.

Around half of the identified cases are in Wuhan, and most of the people who are infected with the virus have been in contact with people from the city.

The spread of the coronavirus may have been exacerbated by its timing, as it appeared a few weeks before Chinese New Year, a holiday marked by a tradition of people going home to celebrate with their families. This contributed to the increase of infected people, as people working in Wuhan went back to their hometowns and spread the virus to other cities.

“I am rather concerned about my grandma, because she is now 80 and has many health conditions requiring medical support that cannot be attained during this time of limited resources,” said McCormick sophomore Devin Shen, who is from Beijing. “She is confined to her home and it can be difficult for her to go to the hospital. I am also concerned because elderly people are more likely to get infected with the virus.”

The Chinese government is implementing different measures to prevent the further dissemination of the virus. Travels are limited, and people are encouraged to stay home. Furthermore, the government has built a hospital and is working to develop a vaccine to combat the virus outbreak. Some major companies have asked their employees to work from home.

Considering the virus’ rapid rate of contagion and the density of Chinese population, Ryan Zhang, a Weinberg freshman from Guangdong, China, said the Chinese government is effective in mobilizing the people not to spread the virus even further.

“Local governments are paying a lot of attention,” Zhang said. “People who go back home from Wuhan are immediately quarantined by the local governments.”

Taya Carothers, an assistant director at the International Office, confirmed the Northwestern community is adapting its plans to the situation. Carothers said that “a couple of spring break trips (to China) were canceled.”

Carothers added that the University is now unable to host forthcoming visits of Chinese scholars due to the temporary ban on international travel by the Chinese government. She added that there are also some recent Chinese alumni, who are in China and who cannot get out of the country.

Furthermore, the University announced last Monday that it prohibited sponsored undergraduate travel to China and that courses which included a trip to the nation will be redirected to less-affected regions of the world.

Zhang said that the Chinese communities outside of China are among the first to react to this epidemic. International students at various universities are organizing donations to buy masks and to send them to China, he said.

Wu said he has also made a donation online to an organization that will buy medical equipment for the hospitals in China.

“It is important to understand … what is being done to prevent the spread on campus, but I think that it is also important to understand that we need to be compassionate and supportive of our Chinese community on campus as well,” Carothers said.

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