The 2019 novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, isn’t in Bloomington, but the stigma surrounding the disease is. “As someone who is Chinese American or Asian American, I don’t think I should have to worry about racism on top of worrying about my family and the survival of my family in China,” Meloddy Gao said.
Gao is a senior at IU. She identifies as Chinese American and has extended family living in Beijing. Gao was at Griffy Lake, a Bloomington park when she encountered racism from a child. “I went by, and I think he said something like run, the Chinese virus.”
The 2019 novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, has killed over 3.000 people, primarily in China, according to the Interactive COVID-19 map by Johns Hopkins.
Many of IU’s International Chinese students are feeling the impact, such as second-year Ph.D. student Qirun Wu. “It’s terrible,” he said. When asked what people should know about the disease, Wu said, “They should stay home. You should take care of yourself and stay home.” Wu lives in Beijing but is spending the semester at IU.
Freshman KaiHin Zhu is also from China. Zhu said he hadn’t experienced any effects of COVID-19 in Bloomington, but he has friends from China who can’t go back to school in Australia. “They are banning the Chinese because of the disease,” Zhu said. He is thankful he didn’t go back to China this year.
Ana Bento is an assistant professor in the School of Public Health and is an expert on the coronavirus. “The 2019-nCoV (2019 novel coronavirus), had not previously been detected before the outbreak was reported in Wuhan, China, in December 2019,” Bento wrote in an email. The most vulnerable populations are “older people and people with pre-existing medical conditions,” and it’s spread “from person to person, usually after close contact with an infected patient.”
COVID-19 has about a 2% mortality rate, according to the Washington Post. This statistic has sparked hysteria in some students.
“One out of every 50 people in a room could die,” said sophomore Nathan Blair. “We’re in the lunchroom of Wells right now, and there’s room for 100 people, that’s two people who drop dead.”
Despite there being few COVID-19 cases in the United States, some students discussed practicing basic hygiene as a preventative measure. Freshman Abby Swift has been following her Mother’s advice, “My mom texted me and was like make sure you’re washing your hands. Just general hygiene stuff.”
Junior Sam Goldman agrees. “It’s deadly. Wash your hands to prevent spreading the disease.”
Not everyone in the IU community is worried.
“People are sort of paranoid about it,” said Yiddish lecturer Alek Broko.
“It’s not something people should be very worried about unless there are a ton of people testing positive for the virus around you,” said sophomore Kat Keller.
It’s challenging to know what level of concern the IU community should have. Over email, Bento said, “As with every novel virus/ emerging disease, we are learning new things every day. So, the focus should be on information gathering and blocking misinformation from being amplified.”