Maintaining perspective – and humor – during the coronavirus outbreak

In the past week, COVID-19 has been the top subject of conversation at the College. You can not be in a food line at Dana, pass a group on the first (or even second) floor of Miller, or walk into a classroom without hearing news and rumors about the virus’s spread.

As cases across the country – and the world – have increased, some states and countries have declared a state of emergency. In an email on March 10, the College informed students that a decision with regard to spring break and whether or not the college would remain open. would be reached within 24 hours. 

The College has been in close communication with its peer institutions in the New England Small College Athletic Conference [NESCAC]. Although Maine still has no confirmed cases of the virus roughly 40 U.S. colleges, including Harvard University, have closed.

Students have spread rumors throughout the campus speculating if the College will close or confine the entire student body to campus. However, among the buzz, students have maintained a critical perspective – as well as a (classically morbid) sense of humor.

“My study abroad is to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean,” Ben Bogorad `21 said, who is at home waiting for his study abroad to begin. “Probably the safest place I could go. This is the culmination of interconnectedness and people are just excited to lose their mind over something.”

“I am not worried about traveling,” Jackson Herz `22 said. “I think that the fear of the virus is based on a backwards understanding of ethnicity of socioeconomic class.”

He added to his lack of concern, saying “I am worried if I go to Germany, New York City, or Florida, where there are all cases.” This is a notable worry for him; his family is from New York City, and he has considered trips to the other two locations as well.

Herz’s point about ethnicity has been much discussed (but perhaps not enough). Xenophobia has reared its head as the virus continues to move.

“The news media, xenophobia, anti immigrant sentiments,” Sophia Huxley `21 said, “There’s an idea that ‘Asian people have the virus.’ People are refusing to eat at Chinese restaurants, refusing to talk to Asian people. The media is overhyping it and there is a lot of panic, but more importantly it has become a vehicle for anti-immigrant sentiment and xenophobia that has probably been there all along.”

Fewer students mentioned the science behind the virus, but some have their concerns. 

“I think they’re afraid it’s going to become the new flu,” George Prekeges `21 said. “That it will never really go away.” And although he’s done his research, just like many other students on campus, he’s not 100% sure that he has the correct information.

Sakina Mustafa `22 and Sativa Jones `22 both had matter-of-fact perspectives.

 “I’m not worried,” Mustafa said. “If it’s my time to go it’s my time to go. I think I saw an article about a confirmed case at home in Virginia, but I’m not sure.”

“Most of us are young and healthy,” Jones said. “The virus will be like a cold if we got it. I’m going to wash my hands before I eat which I usually forget to do. That is my only change. I am invincible. Only death will kill me.”

After getting a few laughs from the absurdity, Jones became more serious. 

“We can’t deny that people are dying. People are dying, the economy is being affected, and people are really scared. But we can’t panic. It won’t change anything. We’re just doing our best.”

You can take Jones’ advice and you can also follow the Center for Disease Control’s guidelines:

Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 10-20 seconds, or use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.

Consider an alternative to shaking hands.

Cough into your sleeve, or preferably a tissue, and immediately discard.

Avoid sharing food and beverages.

If you reside with someone who is sick, try to stay at least six feet away to prevent exposure.

If you are ill, avoid being in contact with others.