The Coronavirus Effect

Given the magnitude of this subject as it relates to Asians and Asian Americans, I felt it important to address the topic of the growing effect the Coronavirus is having for this week’s dose.

However, first I have an important announcement! Our little email newsletter-that-could is growing into a full fledged Dose of Asianess blog starting in the next couple of weeks! So the next email you receive from us will be an invitation to subscribe. Please do! We’ll be phasing out these old-school emails in favor of the new blog over the next couple Doses. In addition, another great benefit of joining (and sharing!) is that you will now be able to access all of our past Doses.

Onto this week’s topic.

My family has a weekend tradition – we’ll choose one day to head out to one of the many great Chinese restaurants in Irvine, a city in Southern California home to many Chinese eateries to get a delicious dim-sum or noodle lunch, hit an Asian supermarket and then get some Asian breads, tea and/or desert. However, the area we usually go to was frequented by the first woman in Southern CA who was discovered with the virus. Thus, over the past couple of weeks we’ve stopped going in favor of staying closer to home.

Should I feel guilty about that?

A family friend from Taiwan brought her son to urgent care here in Huntington Beach, CA last week, and everyone in the waiting room stayed as far away from him as possible. They had to answer the question of “have you been to China in the past two weeks?” three times, and answers were in this order… 1) “No” 2) “No we have never been to China” 3) My son was born here and neither of us have ever been to China in our life!”.

Is the doctor wrong to question them so?

I believe there’s a difference between avoiding crowded areas that have already shown signs of the virus and being extra cautious with patients that exhibit symptoms consistent to the Coronavirus (her son had the flu). Unfortunately, increasingly there are cases of Xenophobia around the world with Asians being broadly punished for a crime they didn’t commit. Being painted with a broad stroke of a contagion that they don’t have.  Being labeled consumers of bats or other wild animals. From kids of Asian descent being bullied in schools to Chinese adults being banned from restaurants, the impact of fear of this virus may be becoming more dangerous than the virus itself.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting this virus is not deadly or not incredibly distressing to those in the thick of the ordeal in China. While more could have been done in the very beginning to contain the virus vs. trying to minimize ‘negative news’ on the eve of the most important holiday of the year (this started right before Chinese New Year), the full weight of the Communist Chinese system has mobilized against this now (for better or worse) – with the goal of eradicating the virus, often at the expense of personal freedom. This will be a test for the Chinese President and his goal of making this a Chinese century. Chinese people in Wuhan (and increasingly other areas as well) are on lockdown and are basically needing to order take-out for everything. A friend of mine has two co-workers who are stuck in their relatives homes after having traveled there for the new year and are not heading back to work for who knows how long.

It’s not their fault. They are sacrificing to try and stop this highly contagious virus before it spreads globally and becomes yet another virus that is out there for us to deal with (like the other four strains of Coronavirus that are already present in the world today, or the Flu that killed 80,000 Americans last year).

If this virus hasn’t impacted you yet, it will. Even though work is resuming for many today after the extended holiday, the Chinese machine has been impacted, and it is slowing. Businesses globally WILL feel this. From supplies of parts for automakers, to the production of iPhones, to any of the many products you own that are ‘made in China’ – the long term impact of this event are hard to see. In addition, given the speed at which this virus is spreading, it’s becoming more likely every day that this will become a global pandemic.

I wish to thank the Chinese citizens who are sacrificing to try and keep this virus contained. I hope to encourage those working in healthcare around the world to continue to be diligent, but also be sensitive to the human beings they are treating. I dare to think about the potential impact coming to our shores in a bigger way but care enough not to place blame on an entire ethnicity because it happened to start in China.

I’ll leave you with this video that is going viral with nearly a half million views on Facebook – of a Chinese-Italian man (Martigli Jiang) who is with a sign that reads “I am not a virus. I’m a human. Eradicate the prejudice.”  The video was posted by a group called the Italian-Chinese Youth Union and they went on to say that “The virus that really scares us right now is not the coronavirus, but the prejudice that is in the air. Remove the coronavirus but not the people!”.

It’s quite possible that you haven’t noticed the impact of this yet, and you may be surprised by this fearful xenophobic reaction by some around the world (I hope that is the case), and encouraged by the kindness and sacrifice of others. Regardless, the impact of this new coronavirus is coming.

How will you react?

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