Op-ed: Let’s talk about coronavirus

Coronavirus emerged in the city of Wuhan, China in Dec. 2019. It causes symptoms similar to the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), spreads from person to person through droplets and causes a respiratory illness called COVID-19. 

As of Feb. 18, the number of people in China infected with the coronavirus reached nearly 45,000, after more than 3,000 new cases were reported in a day. Five days prior, reports shared that over 1,300 people have died in China from the new strand of the virus, almost double the amount of people who died from SARS in the 2002–03 epidemic. 

Coronavirus has spread outside of Wuhan, and there have been cases of infections reported in the US, and beyond. The World Health Organization confirmed that a person in Vietnam had acquired the virus from an infected family member as well as a tour-bus driver in Japan who had transported tourists from Wuhan.

The disease causes unfathomable damage to global communities, but beyond that, it creates divisions between people. This specific strain of coronavirus has been named ‘The Chinese virus’ and ‘Wuhan’s virus’. The disease has been associated with Asian populations, making the people the main target of discriminatory practices and hostility.  

Social media platforms have also helped foster mass hysteria, xenophobia, and myths about the disease. Take for example the “coronavirus spill”, in which two men wearing hazmat uniforms deliberately spilled yellow liquid “containing” the coronavirus culture in a subway. The prank resulted in blame that was then directed at Asian passengers. 

This is not the first time we have seen persecution by association. Take for example the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, when people who were perceived as Asian were denied a space at the table, in banks, hotels and several spheres of social life. 

We cannot allow for discrimination to happen in our Lafayette community. We cannot afford to deepen already existing social divisions due to a newly discovered virus.

First, we must put a halt to the misuse of the monikers — it is a strain of coronavirus that is in no way related to nationality. Supporting our Asian friends is the second most important thing. Their families who live abroad are experiencing a lot of discrimination while living in the midst of the outbreak. It is a nerve-racking experience, and it is simply wrong to put our friends through more stress due to false understandings of the disease.

We need to work together to create a strong, resilient community and that includes exposing and debunking stereotypes and biases. 

I am urging everyone to do just that at the Protect Your Community Workshop on Feb. 25 at 12 p.m., in RISC 326 to learn truths about the virus and how to support our friends.

Written by Milena Berestko’22

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