On Saturday February 1st, at 1:48pm, my mom texted me the following: “OMG, a 20 year old from Boston has the virus! Don’t Panic but u have to be careful, wash your hands.” Of course, my immediate response (in spite of her words) was to panic a little. As a college student living in an urban environment and often using mass transportation, like the MBTA, I couldn’t help these feelings of dread. The recent
coronavirus outbreak has been all over the news for weeks, and as the number of people infected increases, the more I find myself increasingly anxious.
With more information coming out about the virus on a daily basis, I began to wonder what other people were thinking. Were other Lesley students also feeling anxious about the coronavirus? Did they think the virus was even important enough to follow? And would it effect how people from different parts of the world would interact? Before I began asking questions and gathering opinions from my peers, I thought it was important to lay out some facts. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, the coronavirus is a
“respiratory illness caused by a [new] coronavirus (named 2019-nCOV) that was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China.” The virus is known to spread from person-to-person contact and is most commonly connected to people traveling from Wuhan.
Initially, many people believed the virus came from animal-to-person contact. Chinese officials had made connections between Wuhan’s large seafood market and the virus’s outbreak. But as time went on, however, many infected people claimed they had not had any contact with animals. Thus, the coronavirus was spreading within China, and then, internationally– largely by person-to-person interactions.
The first confirmed instance of person-to-person spread [in the United States] with this virus was on January 30, 2020. The first confirmed case in Massachusetts was on February 4th. And while China remains the center of the outbreaks, with as many as 1,000 deaths from the virus, other countries like Japan, Singapore, and Hong Kong are concerned because of travel to and from China.
The United States has thus far only had 13 confirmed cases. For now at least, the virus does not appear to be spreading from
person-to-person contact here; however, there have been cases where a person in close contact with an infected person has contracted the virus. This exposure might include healthcare workers caring for coronavirus patients, and other people in close contact with someone infected and/or carrying the virus. Generally, though, the CDC believes that there is only a low risk to American public health.
But as with any disease, sensible precautions are necessary. I reached out to Lesley’s Director of Student Health Services, Kerry Folkman, to get her perspective on the virus. Like what the CDC has said, Folkman believes that “…in the United States, the risk of becoming infected
with the Coronavirus remains very low. That being said, it is important to keep up with the latest information from the CDC, which we are doing daily at the Health Service [center].” While Fokman believes the coronavirus is certainly something to be concerned about, she is more concerned about students getting the flu. At Health Services “We are encouraging everyone to get a flu shot; (for students who live on campus, they are available for free at the health service); [students should] be vigilant about hand hygiene, and generally take care of themselves.” She stresses that taking these preventative measures will “help keep you safe from, and prevent the spread of, the coronavirus.”
When asked if she believes the campus is prepared for a potential coronavirus outbreak, Folkman said “Yes. The campus has protocols and policies in place so that we are prepared for an infectious disease outbreak at all times. These include efforts aimed at preventing disease, reducing the spread of disease, and supporting the recovery of sick students. Specific to coronavirus, we are keeping up to date with the
latest information from the CDC and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and following their guidance. However, it is also important that each member of the campus community does their part to keep the campus healthy by getting their flu shots, covering their [mouth when they] cough and sneeze, keeping their hands clean, and staying home when they are sick. The Health Service is available as a resource to anyone who has questions about how to keep themselves healthy.”
After researching these facts and getting Folkman’s perspective, I will admit my own anxiety lessened a bit; however, I still wondered what other Lesley students (who may or may not be informed about the virus) were thinking. Curious to find out, I did a quick survey of twenty-five students, and then spoke to others. The general consensus was this: most students had heard about the virus via the media, and a majority believed we should pay attention to its progress. But these students did not feel worried at this time, since they did not believe the virus would affect them. Several respondents noted seeing rumors and myths on social media. And several others hoped that because the virus had originated in China, this would not lead to discrimination against Chinese people in the United States.
To sum up, I came away with the impression that the campus is prepared for any possible outbreak of coronavirus, but that the flu was a more immediate concern, and one with steps that people on campus could take.