The Coronavirus: What It Is & What It Isn’t

About a week ago, my Instagram feed became flooded with the word “coronavirus”.  There were prevention tips, how to spot it, you name it. And I’ll be honest, I didn’t do any research when I first saw posts about it. The more and more I heard about this virus, though, the more it concerned me. 

But let’s take a step back, first: just what is this “coronavirus” really? Well, according to the CDC (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), it is “a virus identified as the cause of an outbreak of a respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China.” 

Although it originated in China, there have been outbreaks in other countries. However, the people in my Instagram feed have been up in arms because there have been cases in the U.S., so their concern is rightfully placed. As reported by the CDC, 293 people in the U.S. are under investigation of having the coronavirus. A total of 36 states have people under investigation, and there 5 states with confirmed coronavirus cases. (This information is all as of 2/5/2020.)

Now for most people, these numbers are a bit worrisome. No one wants a virus to be anywhere near them, and the fact that over half of the states have people under investigation is scary. 

After doing some research, (thanks Google!) I found that the main symptoms of the coronavirus are fever, cough, and shortness of breath. These symptoms are pretty common, often associated with the common cold, flu, and numerous other illnesses. So chances are, if you cough once or twice, you probably don’t have the coronavirus. 

Like I mentioned before, posts about the virus took over my social media feeds. And while I appreciate knowledge spreading, I don’t appreciate casual racism. As a Chinese-American, I found it disappointing to see the number of racist jabs made at Asians, specifically those of Chinese descent, under the guise of the coronavirus. 

Doctor checking blood pressure

According to the CDC, “early on, many patients in the outbreak of respiratory illness caused by 2019-nCov in Wuhan, China had some link to larger seafood and live animal market, suggesting an animal-to-person spread” (2020). Because of this, people went after the “weird” and “gross” food that Asians eat, and how if we just “ate normally” it wouldn’t happen. Not only is that based on pure stereotype, but it also insinuates that we [Asian people] deserve a virus because of what we eat. Just because Asian food is not Western does not mean it’s “gross” – it’s just something that not everyone is used to.

Another racist comment that I’ve seen emerge is how all Asians have the virus, and therefore, people must stay away from Asians. This comment goes hand in hand with the stereotype that all Asians look the same, and honestly, it’s exhausting. Just because the coronavirus originated in China does not mean that all Asian (or Chinese) people have it. Turning it into an “us vs. them” debate does no good. (Side note: Asian people are not just Chinese).

Comments such as the ones I listed are often disguised as poorly worded jokes or are just flat out stated. I understand that this virus is a scary prospect and humor can be a coping mechanism, but being disrespectful will not fly, joke or not.  

This virus is not, has not been, and will never be an excuse to make [subtly] racist jabs towards Asians. Remember that, especially in times like this, staying informed is important! Check the CDC for updates on the virus, stay up to date on the news and all that good stuff. Stand up for your Asian brothers, sisters, and non-binary siblings the next time you see a racist comment. We’re all in this together!