The outbreak of the respiratory disease caused by the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) has left a large impact on the entire world. One of several strains of coronavirus, the spread of COVID-19 is currently a public health emergency, with cases in at least 48 countries at the time of publication, according to a New York Times article. Over 82,000 people around the world have been infected, according to a BBC article. As of print time, the university is restricting official travel to mainland China and Korea, effective Feb. 26, based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) travel advisories, wrote Provost Lisa Lynch in a community-wide email sent on Feb. 26.
The coronavirus outbreak has led to an increase in xenophobic attacks on Asian and Asian American communities, according to a CNN article. A Los Angeles Times article described people of Asian descent, in particular, having to field “vitriolic attacks in public spaces, including suspicious looks and nasty comments.” These same concerns are present on the Brandeis campus, which Lynch addressed in an email dated Feb. 9. In this email, Lynch asks community members to be aware that this is an “especially stressful time for members of [the] community who are affected by the coronavirus because of its impact on their families and communities or the stigma they may be experiencing in public settings.” Lynch concluded the email by asking “everyone to treat one another with dignity and respect, so that we sustain the supportive, inclusive, and compassionate community that is rooted in our founding values.”
We, the editorial board of The Brandeis Hoot, would like to extend well wishes to any students, faculty, staff or community members who may be impacted by COVID-19. During these challenging times, we urge students to treat fellow peers with respect, especially any Asian or Asian American students who may be facing stigma in public settings regarding the spread of the virus.
There are many historically racist stereotypes that specifically target Asian Americans. The yellow peril, which perpetuated the belief that working-class Chinese laborers were “filthy yellow hoards,” began in the 1870s and is resurfacing in the midst of this epidemic, according to a CNN analysis. If you see someone cough or sneeze, do not immediately assume that they have COVID-19. If you see someone wearing a mask, it does not mean that they are sick or contagious, as they are likely protecting both themselves and people around them from infections. If you avoid Chinese restaurants or markets, it does not make you safer from the virus, but rather perpetuates these cycles of fear and hate.
Although it may feel easier to make rash judgments and assumptions, it is important to be aware of biases and actively shift away from such thoughts. We should support members of our community that are impacted by COVID-19, and each other. We should stand together, rather than creating more division. Brandeis’ founding values include community and respect, and these should be followed, even in potentially stressful times. As of today, we do not know what the situation in the United States will be like in a few weeks time, and the situation is always evolving as we learn more about the virus.
It is possible to be both conscientious of our personal hygiene and respectful to community members. As Provost Lynch mentioned in the email sent on Feb. 9, influenza activity is still “elevated” in the greater Boston area. Students can reduce the risk of getting and spreading viral illnesses by covering coughs, avoiding touching the face, getting the flu shot—available for free at the Health Center—and washing and sanitizing hands frequently, both of which should be made easier by the updated soap dispensers and recently installed hand sanitizer dispensers around campus.
Editor’s note: Editor Sabrina Chow did not contribute to the writing or editing of this editorial.