Should PDS Be Scared of Coronavirus?

Yishi Wang, Online Staff Writer

Chinese New Year, which usually lands in January or February depending on the Lunar calendar, is an essential holiday, embedded deeply in Chinese traditional culture. It marks not only Chinese people’s celebration of the successful conclusion of the previous year but also their hope for next year to be even more fortunate and rewarding. It is a time of family reunion, of friendship renewal, and of backtracking to one’s roots. 

However, the Chinese New Year of 2020 was different. Instead of feasting with friends and family or attending holiday-themed public events, much of China’s population has been shrouded in fear of a new virus outbreaks—novel coronavirus, specifically known as 2019-nCoV.  

Since its appearance in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province located in central China, around mid-December, coronavirus has spread at incredible speed. As of February 1, there have been more than 14,000 confirmed cases of this virus. It has been found in 27 countries worldwide, though almost all of the cases are concentrated in China, a country with the world’s largest population of around 1.4 billion. This is not the first time that coronavirus handicapped the country–SARS outbreak in the spring of 2003 affected more than 7000 and spread to 29 countries. 

Novel coronavirus causes respiratory infections that translate into cough, fever, and shortness of breath. These symptoms can potentially be fatal, though most of those who have died already had a relatively weak immune system or lacked adequate access to medical help. 

The Chinese government demonstrated its resolve by halting public transportation to and from Wuhan, ground zero of the virus, on January 22; since then, some other major cities in Hubei province and around the world have also declared lockdown. The government is allocating critical human and medical resources to support hospitals; the construction of two new Wuhan hospitals will be completed on February 2 and 5. But this ongoing outbreak exposes how government censorship of information can lead to misinformation, conspiracy theories, hysteria, ineffective protection measures, and general distrust in regional leadership. Some have also called for a law banning the commercial consumption of exotic wild animals (it is suspected that this type of coronavirus originated from snake or bat sold at a local “seafood” market known for these special products). 

The virus has caught international attention as well. The World Health Organization declared the outbreak a “global health emergency” on January 30, followed by the United banning foreigners who traveled to China within the last two weeks. As of February 1, eight confirmed cases were reported in the United States, with none of them on the east coast. 

The intense fear of the coronavirus has not completely reached Princeton Day School yet. It has been a hot topic in the hallways for the past week and the source of numerous jokes about the Model UN team, after many (falsely) suspected the team was exposed to someone carrying the virus at a conference at Yale; however, few are really worried about one of the students or their family members catching and spreading the virus. Even though he has many Chinese connections, junior Arthur Zhu is “very doubtful that coronavirus would ever really reach Princeton, even with a large part of the population here being Chinese.”

In PDS and beyond, though, the virus has been used as an excuse for mass hysteria and xenophobia towards Asian Americans and Chinese immigrants. In Sydney, Australia, a man died of a heart attack in Chinatown because no one was willing to give him CPR, even as he collapsed onto the ground. Cases of discrimination against Asians due to their “potential affiliations” to the virus have been popping up across the country, making Coronavirus highly racialized in the same way Ebola was associated with Africans and AIDS was associated with Haitians. Further, many experts have noted that this mass hysteria doesn’t have a basis considering the fact that the flu is far more deadly. Influenza kills more Americans each year than any other virus. 

To minimize the chance of a devastating outbreak in our local community, however, PDS has asked anyone who has been or is in contact with someone who has been in China within the last two weeks to stay off PDS campus. 

The Spokesman wants to remind you to be responsible for yourself by maintaining personal hygiene without subjecting yourself or anyone to mass hysteria based in incorrect information.