COVID-19’s impact on Oregon State University students and families

Jessica Li

Originating from a seafood market in Wuhan, China in December of last year, the coronavirus outbreak has been a global cause for concern. As of Feb 26, there currently exists 78,191 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and 2,718 deaths in China as compared to 2,918 confirmed cases and 43 deaths in 37 countries, according to the World Health Organization Situation Report. The digits reached by these numbers constitutes a significant amount, which led WHO to declare it as a public health emergency at the end of January. 

Transmitted between humans and animals, coronavirus damages respiratory health, according to WHO.

“Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties,” WHO stated. “In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.”

Sadly, no treatment has been found yet; medical care can only be provided to relieve symptoms. Recommended prevention methods by WHO include hand washing, mouth and nose coverage when coughing or sneezing, and avoidance of contact with people displaying coronavirus symptoms. 

Although the coronavirus has not spread to Oregon and the Corvallis community, for some students, their friends and family are at risk or have been infected. For instance, Yizhou Yang, a second year international Chinese student studying Graphic Design, expresses his distress concerning his family and hometown in China and the living circumstances and hardships surrounded by the issue. 

“I come from northeast China, and in my hometown, 36 people out of 2 million got the virus,” Yang said. “My family was put in isolation by the government for 14 days. They could only stay in the room, and the member working for the government bought food for them via video chat. My cousin got pneumonia, so we are afraid.”

To make matters worse, Yang mentioned that masks have been sold out in China, and people are reselling them at an outrageous price of $100 USD for 10 masks, which may or may not be fake. 

Disheartened by these misfortunes, Jia Yi Li, a fourth year Chinese student studying Computer and Electrical Engineering, started a fundraiser for the cause, hoping to raise awareness as well as provide monetary assistance. 

“This coronavirus outbreak brings a lot of negative connotation and prejudice to the Asian race, especially the Chinese population,” said Li. “There is news showing that people from different regions are equalizing Chinese with the virus, and so I hope to raise awareness, bring people together to help this cause, and fundraise to help students in universities in China to get medical supplies.”

Li’s fundraising efforts have consisted of organizing a GoFundMe page for online donations, partnering with cultural student groups and tabling at cultural nights, coordinating with restaurants for fundraiser events, and working with Student Health Services to educate the public. The proceeds will go towards the purchase and shipping of medical supplies to Tsinghua University in Beijing, China for use by students and faculty there.  

In regards to our own university, Oregon State University has been implementing measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus to its campus. 

According to Steven Clark , the Vice President of University Relations & Marketing at OSU, “The university has been communicating regularly to faculty, staff and students since late January regarding coronavirus COVID-19 and its symptoms. We continue to share important personal and public health tips, foreign federal limits on travel, and the availability of OSU resources.”

For example, to inform the OSU community about safety, prevention, and wellness, Myths vs. Facts posters have been distributed and a single destination website has been created to provide updates and credible scientific resources (such as from county health offices, the state Oregon Health Authority, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Authority). Moreover, courses of sanitary action have been taken, including enforcing hygienically clean contact points in OSU buildings. This applies to door knobs, window latches, countertops, and other areas. 

OSU has a number of virus response levels, and is currently in phase two; the OSU Outbreak Planning Team consists of university leaders and department managers who are leading business continuity planning. If coronavirus spreads to OSU, phase four will be activated, and the Incident Command Team will manage the emergency and make decisions concerning university operations.

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