Coronavirus Affects Spring Break Plans

While doctors and nurses are working hard, the coronavirus continues to spread rapidly, emerging in Italy last Sunday. The Chinese government has also continued to report thousands of cases every day. Here at school, the virus affects students from East Asia who planned to go home during March break.
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19), which causes a respiratory illness reminiscent of the SARS outbreak in 2003, was first detected in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. As of February 25, the virus has spread rapidly, infecting over 81,000 people and killing 2,708, according to The New York Times. The virus has had an enormous global impact, prompting travel bans, straining economies and world markets, and putting thousands of people’s lives at risk.
The school strongly encourages students to avoid traveling to countries with a high risk of infection, instead suggesting that students attend programs or stay with host families in the US over the break. Recently, the administration sent out a survey to families of students with addresses in mainland China, Hong Kong, and other infected regions to determine their plans for the break and ensure that everyone has a place to stay.
Mr. Stephen McKibben, dean of community life, held a forum on Febuary 12 for students to exchange information and ask questions about the coronavirus. Mr. McKibben said, “I sympathize [with these students]. It makes me so sad to think we have students who have been looking forward to going home and seeing their family [who are now unable to do so]. [However,] there is a pretty substantial risk, not so much a risk of catching the coronavirus itself, [but] getting caught up in [the] hysteria that is beginning to define policy in terms of reintegrating into America [and potentially being refused re-entry].”
Many countries have placed precautionary travel bans on China, and many airlines have cancelled direct flights to and from China and other regions with high numbers of cases. These travel bans will likely prevent family reunions for a large number of students.
Felix Bao ’21, one of many students from Shanghai, is unable to go home for March break. Bao found out about the travel ban mid-February, which forced him to cancel his flight tickets and adjust his travel plans accordingly. Bao reached out to a friend and will stay with him in Cooperstown, New York.
Caroline Zhang ’20 is also affected by the travel ban. Instead of going home to Hong Kong, Zhang plans to spend March break with her grandparents in New York City.
Students have been organizing fundraising efforts for aid and relief. Clark Dong ’22, a student from Beijing, co-founded Led By Youth, a non-profit dedicated to raising money to support efforts against the coronavirus. The non-profit has raised over 20,000 dollars since the start of February, collecting donations from various schools across the United States. The group has contacted factories in Shandong, a province close to Hubei, the epicenter of the virus. The factories have agreed to produce and sell medical supplies at half the market price, with trustworthy transportation services to bring the supplies safely to hospitals in need.
Led by Youth originally planned to donate antiseptics only to hospitals in Wuhan. However, when the funds raised exceeded their goal, they also bought masks, antiseptic spray backpacks, and protective suits to donate to a larger number of hospitals. Dong said, “We wanted to give the people around us a trustworthy source to allow people to donate to China.”
Following the guidelines of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO), the Health Center advises everyone to wash their hands frequently, avoid close contact with people who are sick, and report to the Health Center if they are feeling ill.