COVID-19: Thoughts and Concerns from a Chinese Student

Arts and CultureCoronavirusOpinionStaff Op-Ed

Graphic of a xenophobic meme in a person's face and a mask that says "Your racism makes me sick."
Kristina Stahl / The Triton

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If you are in one of UC San Diego’s meme Facebook groups, you may have seen this meme and other jokes about COVID-19, a type of coronavirus first detected in December 2019. Some of the memes depict the dangerous virus in a somewhat humorous way, due to the fact that it is not spread widely in San Diego. However, we should take this situation more seriously, as there are students like me who worry about the virus from the bottom of our heart.

As an international student from China, I want to talk about COVID-19 from my perspective. I have lived in San Diego since September 2019, so I am safe from the epicenter of the virus. During the initial worldwide spread, my San Diego friends sometimes joked about the coronavirus. Memes posted online in Facebook groups show how some students get nervous when an Asian student sitting next to them starts coughing. I can never forget these memes because, as a Chinese student, I feel uncomfortable when I see that this serious disease spreading in my country has been depicted in a trivial manner. Although I know my friends do not see me as some potential danger, I still feel a bit hurt because I have been treated differently due to my nationality.

In early December, I, like many people in China, thought the virus would pass in a short time, just like the normal flu. However, COVID-19 cannot yet be cured by any medicines. On January 23,  it was announced that Wuhan was under quarantine, which meant all transportation stopped: No one could get inside Wuhan and no one could get out. When I witnessed the announcement, I burst into tears because I realized that my country was facing a severe problem. Whenever I asked my family and friends in China for updates on the virus, they always told me that everything was fine because they did not want me to worry. However, with the news spreading worldwide, I knew that COVID-19 had become so dangerous that most people in China could not go back to work—my mom was notified earlier this month that her company extended the suspension of operations for another week.

While no one I know personally is infected, the thousands of others suffering from COVID-19 drowns my heart with worry. What if my family is next? I feel powerless when I use Chinese social media to see the death toll count and whether the medical supplies are sufficient. Recently, my mood has been low before I sleep because this is the time Chinese news is reported. However, with the sunrise and the opportunity to go to class and see my friends, my sadness automatically disappears. I can barely feel the danger and tension of COVID-19 during the day, except when someone offhandedly mentions it. My Chinese friends seem to have a silent mutual agreement that no one talks about the virus in public. We only feel our emotions when texting family and friends that are in China.

COVID-19 is not a joke. In the second meeting convened by the World Health Organization (WHO) International Health Regulations, COVID-19 was deemed a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. In other words, COVID-19 requires worldwide unity to prevent it from spreading further.

Due to multiple COVID-19 cases in San Diego, everyone should pay close attention to their health. According to WHO, there are several ways to protect ourselves from the virus, including: washing hands frequently, avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, and covering your mouth with a tissue or your elbow when coughing. If you do not know how to help, you can offer support to those whose families are affected or at risk for COVID-19. COVID-19 is now a global issue that needs everyone to work together to overcome it, not only for China, but for the entirety of the world.

Yufei Ge is a Staff Writer for The Triton.