SU Student Relative Shares Her Experience with the Coronavirus
This year, the coronavirus was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, and as more cases began to grow across the country, many people had to be cautious and delay work. Emily Davidson, who works in China as a counselor helping Chinese students apply for American colleges, has experienced a unique situation with the coronavirus and explains the impact on China and the rest of the world.
“The Chinese New Year was on the twenty-fourth of January and that’s a big deal, because it’s when everyone goes home to see family, so there’s a massive movement of millions of people who are moving across the country and interacting with people they don’t normally interact with”, said Davidson. “….and it’s when there is a disease and virus that is spreading, it’s the worst time for that to happen, because it means people are going to go to all of these places and come back to the big cities where it’s just a lot of people. However, Beijing is really far from Wuhan, where the virus was first seen, so there wasn’t necessarily a fear of getting it but a lot of caution.”
The start of the coronavirus caused many people to panic and disperse from one another to try and stay inside to keep healthy.
“I live in Beijing, and at least when I left on January 29, it mostly meant that there were very few people outside. The government wanted to reduce the number of group activities and group spaces so they asked companies and schools and all different kinds of businesses to limit the number of activities they were holding, because they wanted to minimize the risk of it spreading.”
Emily had already planned a trip with her students to travel to Boston and Chicago for college tours, so she hasn’t had much disturbance with her work and delaying it, however, traveling from China to the United States there is a lot of caution during that time with the government.
“We haven’t had any students who had issues, partly because most of them haven’t traveled to that part of the country during the break or in contact with family members who were affected. Some students may have family members in Wuhan, but Wuhan is under quarantine, so you can’t leave or enter the city. If they do have family there, then they are contained. However, when you go to the airport in Beijing and other transportation places there are a lot of temperature checks, so if you are showing signs of a fever they will have you checked,and then you can’t get on the transportation. It’s a lot of fear.”
The coronavirus has never been discovered before, but without knowledge of what it is exactly, it causes a lot of fear of getting in contact with it.
“There have been over 2,000 cases and around 300 deaths, which is really scary, but it’s also important to put it in perspective, I mean, the normal flu season in America kills more people than that every year, we’re just really used to it,” said Davidson, “It’s killed more people than the coronavirus, but that’s not the disease people are freaking out about. The reason for that is because we mostly understand the flu, there’s no treatment it’s viral, but what’s making this coronavirus so scary for people is that it’s a new virus to humans and to the country and other countries.”
However, with the virus spreading from China to other countries, the United States Government is very concerned about people coming in and out internationally from Asia, so this causes a lot of judgment from United States citizens about immigrants.
“We’re a group of students and some counselors, and some of our counselors are ethnically Chinese and some of us aren’t, and the students are and we’re a group so we always stand out no matter what,” Davidson stated.
“While we’ve been here in the states, college campuses have been welcoming but cautious. This disease is scary and unknown, but there is definite racial and linguistic prejudice undertone to the amount of panic about it,” Davidson explained, “It’s important to be very understanding, people are going through a hard time and people have family in those areas. Especially for people who have never been to Asia or been to China, they don’t really know what to picture, so the worst stereotypes of those places could affect the way they see Chinese people, ‘China is really dirty, so of course they’re sick. And the people coming from China are sick so if they’re Chinese they’re sick, because China is dirty.’”
There is also a lot of news, and pictures on social media qualify these racial stereotypical thoughts, because of how they’re displaying Asian people in their media, which could cause more racial concerns.
“Most of the news articles and newspapers and any picture I’ve seen on the coronavirus shows someone of Asian descent walking through an airport with a mask on. For clarification, in China and some other places in Asia, people wear masks in the cold weather to protect their face like if you bike, sometimes for pollution, and they wear masks from getting sick. They want to prevent more stuff from getting into their lungs,” Davidson stated. “In America it is different, people wear masks if they’re sick, however, it’s different in China, which is interesting. Americans reacting to those pictures is like, ‘look at all these people getting off the plane from china who are sick’ but from the other perspective the Chinese people are thinking, ‘wow I’m getting on a plane and I’m really healthy, I don’t want to get sick so I’m going to wear my mask.’”
Emily is one of the lucky people to evacuate from China and still work remotely from the states, however, there have been a few concerns with flights back to China due to the United States Government.
“Work nowadays is so easy to work remotely, I’m lucky it’s not going to affect my job much. The folks who are waiting to see what their job is going to shake out to be that’s much harder. For me, this is a relatively small hiccup, the flight was canceled but we’ve found a flight with a Chinese airline to get the students home, and the U.S. citizens among us will remain here in the U.S. while they go back to their families.”
Other than affecting people’s health, the coronavirus also has a major impact on the global economy, since China is one of the most populated and industrialized country in the world.
“It’s interesting to think about the economic impact, China’s economy is a major portion of the global GDP. They talk about sars which was fifteen years ago, and China hadn’t yet risen to the level it has risen now economically. Now Flights are cancelled and businesses are closed. This is a huge blow to China’s economy and their stock market is in trouble, but fifteen years ago this wasn’t a big deal for the rest of the world. But now China owns the debt of many places, countries, and industries, and the economic impact of this virus goes beyond the impact of just citizens. It;s going to show how much power China has right now, because it’s going to ripple through all of us.”