In my five years spent studying in the U.S., I’ve never been so worried about my family in China as I have now. When my dad recently said over the phone it was fortunate for me to return to the States before the coronavirus outbreak began, I told him I felt sad that I couldn’t be with him while our family is facing this crisis.
Yet, my sadness seems useless. I realized my negative emotional response to the Covid-19 outbreak is transforming into a new “panic virus” psychology that significantly affects my quality of life.
Originating in Wuhan, China, CoVid-19 quickly spread across the country and then worldwide in about a month. As of Feb. 12, the World Health Organization reported that Covid-19 has killed over 1,100 and affected more than 45,000 people worldwide. As the number continually grows each day, people’s anxiety about what the outbreak means also mounts.
Over the last three weeks, the outbreak has tugged on my heartstrings with my family. I felt so eager to go home and tide over difficulties with my family when my dad told me the closest confirmed case of Covid-19 was only two blocks away from our home in Beijing. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels the same way.
For all international students from China, we’re far from the epicenter of the outbreak. We wish we could join our families and support those in need in our home country. But in reality, the truth hurts — face masks hit a shortage globally and China travel bans spread. Besides calling our parents every day to check in on the situation, we can’t do anything to relieve the tensions that Covid-19 brings to our lives.
I’m worried about my family’s situation in this health crisis, and meanwhile, constantly hearing misinformation about Covid-19 just makes me more stressful and emotional about this tragedy. It seems uncontrollable to see the flow of false claims about Covid-19 spreading all over the place, both on the internet and on campus.
Since the UMass Boston student was diagnosed with coronavirus, I’ve heard wild stories about him going out to dinner with friends in Chinatown after getting off the plane. However, the fact is that he immediately sought medical care and has been quarantined at his home.
“These ideas, like a virus itself, can be easily transmitted from person to person, carried by both the unwitting and the devious,” Matt Richtel from The New York Times wrote in his article W.H.O. Fights a Pandemic Besides Coronavirus: an ‘Infodemic.’
With the waves of false truths about the virus, I turned to visiting FactCheck.org multiple times a day to verify the sources and facts of all the updated news regarding Covid-19. It’s a good habit for a student journalist, however, these wild rumors are undeniably toxic to our health and minds and need to be fought off.
The Covid-19 outbreak is like an invisible war, both physically and mentally. No one knows when and where the virus bullet will come next. The doctors became the warriors, going to the frontlines to fight against the virus. To win this battle, we can help by support those frontline warriors as a logistics team and keeping the truth around Covid-19 discourse to fight the “infodemic.” One of the easiest ways to avoid suspicious claims and fake news is to check the story on credible news websites such as Associated Press and Reuters that emphasize the impartiality and accuracy of the international news stories. Living in the era of information, it’s important to read trustworthy media outlets instead of conspiracy theories.
The good news is that companies like Facebook and Google began removing various Covid-19 theories in its search results, according to recent coverage from CNN. However, we still need to look out for each other when facing this global catastrophe.
The alert of “global emergency” sent off by the W.H.O. is a good reminder for all of us to unite and combat the war, regardless of nationality, race, or faith, because no battle can win if no one fights for it.
For many people in China, their 2020 New Year’s resolution became very simple: survive. Expanding this yearning for survival, I’d also add to physically and emotionally stay strong and fight for the battle against the health crisis. It’s been a tough start to the Year of the Rat, but the tough times will eventually pass through.