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Students react to coronavirus

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To learn more about the student community’s reactions to the spread of coronavirus, The Daily interviewed seven students at Tresidder Union. Students spoke about how coronavirus has impacted their lives, ranging from last-minute travel plan changes and academic concerns to fears for safety. 

The United States has had more than 600 confirmed cases and 25 deaths due to coronavirus, according to The New York Times. Santa Clara County, which has over 40 confirmed cases, reported its first death on Monday. In light of coronavirus’ proximity, Stanford has suspended all winter overseas study programs, moved classes online and canceled in-person finals. No students have tested positive for the virus yet, according to the University.

Jason Zhang ’23

Zhang, an international student from Wuhan, China, said he and a group of Chinese friends were moving out of their dorms to a house in Melbourne Park to weather out the virus.

“We have hindsight,” he said. “I know what’s going on, and I know what will come next. I know there will be a moving-out trend, so we have to get a house quick.”

Zhang said he has a weaker immune system and that continuing to live in Donner, a freshman dorm, posed too much of a threat.

“First, Donner is a party house, especially on Friday, and parties bring the viruses of the University to our hallway,” Zhang said. “Second, the restroom. Oh my god. There is no lid, and the toilet water can contain the virus. I’ve also seen people not washing their hands.”

He criticized students who he believes are taking the virus lightly.

“Their attitude is ‘I read the news, and 80% of the people will be fine. I’m strong, so I’ll be fine,’” Zhang said. “That’s selfish and egoistic. They’re socializing the cost to everyone, but privatizing their joy of having a party in the dorm because the virus will not kill them.”

Zhang said he knew people who had died in Wuhan and was concerned for his family.

“My parents locked themselves in the house,” he said. “Sometimes they get a sore throat, and they don’t tell me until three days later once they get a little better. They’ll tell me, ‘Okay, we kind of got a sore throat yesterday, and that really panicked us; I thought we were all going to die.’”

Although Zhang criticized corruption at the local level in China’s response to coronavirus, he said China was making good progress at the “macro” level to respond. The United States? Not so much.

“The Chinese government can build a hospital in 10 days,” he said. “Do you think the United States can do that?”

Zhang urged the University to fund students’ off-campus housing out of coronavirus concerns. 

“I know my immune system will not handle [the coronavirus],” he said. “I need to move out to save my life, but that’s very expensive. We are moving out of our own pockets because the University cannot provide a safe environment for us.”

Horace Chu ’19 M.S. ’20

Chu, an international student from the United Kingdom, said he had previously planned to go home for spring break but later decided against it due to the risk of quarantine. The U.K. has over 300 confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to The New York Times.

Chu said he was worried that a friend who was coughing in Seattle, Washington, had caught the virus because “his mom is a nurse who treats coronavirus patients.”

“There’s a good chance that they all have it, but they haven’t been tested because of a shortage of testing supplies, and they want  to prioritize testing people who are high risk and show more symptoms,” Chu said.

Freya Forstall ’21

Forstall said she had planned to go to Puerto Rico over spring break but decided against it amid the outbreak.

“It seems like the best thing to do is anywhere I go, I need to be willing to be stuck there for several weeks,” she said. “Puerto Rico is not a place I would feel comfortable being stuck, especially as their medical care is not the best.”

Forstall said the atmosphere on campus feels “post-apocalyptic” in light of all the changes being made by the University.

“The atmosphere here is so weird,” she said. “I’ve felt like just running around screaming sometimes because I feel like there’s no rules.”

Sydney Brown ’21

Brown said she had originally planned to go to Colorado to visit her friends over spring break but was now considering going home sooner.

“The longer that I’m on campus, the more likely [catching coronavirus] is,” she said. “Even if I avoid eating in dining halls and going to the gym, it still seems pretty risky.”

Brown said she appreciated the University’s response to the virus.

“On a timeline of how Stanford is responding, other schools are a week or 10 days behind where we are,” Brown said. “It makes me wonder if we’re being too aggressive, or in reality, this is the right thing to be doing.”

She specifically pointed to the University’s decision to cancel Admit Weekend as notable.

“That’s a pretty big decision,” Brown said. “For that kind of enormous event to be canceled is a pretty big indication that Stanford is trying to take this seriously, since that affects next year’s class as well.”

Jubayer Hamid ’23

Hamid, an international student from Bangladesh, said he had planned to go home for spring break but later decided against it, even though travel restrictions have not yet been placed on his home country.

“The transit points are cut off,” he said. “It’s not strict travel restrictions, but there are massive checkups, and if they see you being feverish or something like that, you’re done.”

Hamid said he was concerned about how moving classes online would affect the amount he learned from them.

“PHYSICS 63 [‘Electricity, Magnetism, and Waves’] is a very interactive class,” Hamid said. “You can’t do that on Zoom. Any future class that extends on the same topic we were supposed to learn well, there’s going to be a gap.”

Hamid said he was concerned by how coronavirus could affect the international economy, pointing to Apple’s plunging rate of sales and cancellation of a textile summit in Bangladesh.

“In my country, there was supposed to be a textile summit, corporations from literally all over the world,” Hamid said. “And that had to be canceled, which means a lot of potential businesses and business contracts with local corporations were just cut off.”

Leah Harris ’22

Harris said she planned to stay on campus to maintain a studious atmosphere.

“It’s unproductive of me to go home and pretend that it’s a relaxing vacation when it’s really not,” Harris said. “We’re still in the quarter.”

Harris said that she believes panic around the virus is not necessary, as younger people tend not to die from it.

“I’ve been keeping up to date on the statistics,” she said. “It’s easier to ground myself in that, but that’s really not the case for a lot of people.”

Harris said she was most concerned by the uncertainty around what spring quarter would look like.

“If push comes to shove, I can fight off a mild flu, but uncertainty about education is a bigger issue for me,” she said.

Adrian Saldana ’22

Saldana said he planned to stay on campus: “I’m not trying to kill my 50-year-old parents.”

He said Provost Persis Drell, who teaches one class period out of four class meetings per week for PHYSICS 41E: “Mechanics, Concepts, Calculations, and Context,” had allowed students to ask her any questions about the coronavirus response.

“She answered with the utmost conviction as to what she was able to disclose,” Saldana said. “She, you know, tried to calm the nerves of students that are like ‘We’re all gonna die.’”

Saldana said the switch to take-home finals was causing him stress.

“I know the student body, and there is going to be so much academic dishonesty,” he said. “The curves for all my classes are going to be completely destroyed. I would rather have just sat and taken a final.”

Contact Kate Selig at kselig ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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Kate Selig '23 is a news desk editor. Questions, comments, concerns? Send her an email at kselig 'at' stanford.edu.
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