This trip was cancelled as a direct result of the recent epidemic often referred to as the Coronavirus. Originating from the city of Wuhan in the Hubei province of China, the disease has spread outside of the Chinese city with cases found in several other countries, including the United States. Modern Language Department Chair and trip leader Lan Lin proposed cancelling the trip before the Coronavirus, or outbreak COVID-19, was well-known: "I started to monitor the situation since Winter Break after I spoke with a few doctors in Wuhan who are my friends." Noticing the increasing number of patients admitted to hospitals for pneumonia, Lin expressed her worry: "I was concerned, although I did not know much about the virus or that it would become an outbreak on such a scale. Upon return from winter break, Lin stated, "I reported my concern to Dr. Bynum and Mr. Roberts and recommended that we should cancel the Spring Break trip to China."
Many students, such as Cici Liu ’20, have direct family members living in China currently. Speaking of her close family currently quarantined in Beijing, Liu stated, “It’s definitely a very large fear in my family right now. My entire family in China is on lockdown at the moment. My dad is only allowed to go out of his building once a week; if he exceeds this limit, he will be on extreme house arrest for two weeks due to the strict isolation laws the government has laid out.” Despite the concern of her grandparents and father living in close proximity to the virus, Liu “finds comfort in the quarantine regulations.” Most of Yue Yin’s ’20 extended family lives in Shanghai. Yin is pragmatic when considering the risks: “I’m not very worried about my family because they are never outside. Despite the risks for older people, they are never leaving the house.” With the virus not as prevalent in Shanghai compared to Wuhan, Yin said she finds her family “lucky” to not be “within the direct vicinity of the virus.”
Lin stresses that the prevailing issue in China is the low supply of protective gear for citizens and doctors: “The huge number of infected patients and lack of medical supply such as masks, protective clothing and goggles are also the top issues. Medical doctors and nurses are working day and night trying to save lives. Many of them have been infected and died. It is heartbreaking.”
Many students are actively sending supplies to relatives in China by their own means. Yin stated, “My family and I recently bought 500 masks in the US and shippedthem over to my grandparents so they can give them out.” Similarly, Liu also shipped mouth masks over to her family: “People in China are running so low on face masks they are making makeshift ones from cloth. They are so easy to get here so I have tried to ship hundreds over.” Liu also commented on the difficulty of getting anything into the country: “we tried to ship a lot of [the face masks] but it’s unfortunate because not all of them even get there because of the strict shipping regulations being carried out.”
The virus originally got media attention with an outbreak of unusual pneumonia cases in the Wuhan Province. Symptoms include signs of fever, shortness of breath, severe infections, pneumonia, inflammation of lungs, severe coughing and even death.On January 30. the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of the virus a global health emergency. According to WHO, this can only be declared when there is an “extraordinary event which is determined... to constitute a public health risk to other states through the international spread of disease.” The last declaration of international concern was the Ebola outbreaks in 2014 and 2019.
As of now, the outbreak is not classified as a pandemic. Rather, it is identified as an epidemic, with the cases outside of China seen as “spillover” from those infected in Wuhan, causing clusters of cases in other regions. The number of reported cases and death counts continue to rise as doctors and scientists persist with their search for a cure. However, WHO suggests that these cases are not “completely reflective of the spectrum of illness, as some infections are mild so the persons might not have discernible symptoms.” As of mid-February, the interventions to control the outbreak are unclear. There is currently no vaccine and the effect of antivirals is un- proven. When asked what the Hopkins community can do to help those in China, Lin stated, “At this point, I think the best way Hopkins can help is to offer kind words and encouragement to the people who are in Wuhan and other places. If anyone wanted to write a card, a letter or send a video to them, I would be happy to collect them and send them to Wuhan.”