EDITORIAL: Encouraging tolerance during the Coronavirus outbreak
As news headlines breed panic about the real but still somewhat distant threat of coronavirus (COVID-19), this board would like to examine how all of this new and constantly-changing information affects the Brandeis community.
The Centers for Disease Control regularly updates their coronavirus situation summary, which says as of press time, “This virus is NOT currently spreading widely in the United States.” The CDC does note, however, that the potential health threat of coronavirus is high, but emphasizes that, “For the general American public, who are unlikely to be exposed to this virus at this time, the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is considered low.”
In other words, there is reason to be wary, but no need for immediate alarm. To put it into perspective, Brandeis students, like any other U.S. residents, are at a far higher risk of contracting a common strain of the flu than COVID-19. According to a report by the CDC, there have been between 32 million and 45 million flu illnesses from Oct. 1 to Feb. 22, and between 18,000 and 46,000 flu deaths in that same time period. Protect yourself from the flu by getting vaccinated at the Health Center, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Prevent the spread of the flu (as well as other illnesses, such as COVID-19) by washing your hands, covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze and staying home when you are sick.
In the event that COVID-19 does make its way to Brandeis, the Health Center is prepared to respond, even adding a page to its website with information about COVID-19. According to Administrative Director of the Health Center Diana Denning in an email to the Justice, “the Health Center is following guidelines from [the] CDC for screening, testing, transportation, quarantine etc. The school has protocols for supporting quarantine and isolation if needed.”
In addition to these health measures, Provost Lisa Lynch wrote in emails to the community on Feb.9, Feb. 26 and March 1 that the University administration is restricting students, faculty and staff from traveling to China, South Korea, Italy and Iran on “official university business.”
This board also condemns the recent spike in racism against Asians and Asian-Americans as a result of the spread of the illness, as COVID-19 was first identified in China. Since then, coverage of the virus has exploded in the media, with U.S. press publishing between five and seven thousand articles on the coronavirus per day by January, according to a Feb. 25 Columbia Journalism Review article. “Viruses spread. Racism even faster it seems,” a Feb. 11 Forbes article noted.
The Brandeis community is stronger for its diversity of students. During this time of uncertainty, this board urges the Brandeis community to reject these harmful stereotypes against our Asian peers and colleagues.