Coronavirus: Deadly Epidemic or Racist Scapegoat?

Every so often, there is a medical epidemic that strikes terror across the globe. In 2014 it was Ebola and now it is Coronavirus.

This new illness has accounted for 1,794 cases in China alone and has since been located in 28 different countries, including 15 cases in the US, according to aljazeera.com, The New York Times and The Washington Post. So far, attitudes towards the virus are mixed. Memes and funny comics have been appearing all over the internet, which highlight the laid back attitudes that usually come from the more cynical members of the population. Some people may be genuinely indifferent about the perceived threat and simply take it as a chance for meme fuel. Some people are also genuinely afraid of this outbreak and are taking extra precautions against it. There is one major issue with all these precautions: Coronavirus is not nearly as deadly as people fear.

There are thousands of people sick with the virus and there have been 2,004 reported deaths. However, in contrast, in 2017, there were 79,400 deaths due to the flu, according to cdc.gov. So to put it bluntly, the fear created by Coronavirus is blown completely out of proportion. Of course, relief and aid is still needed to help the people who are infected, but panicking and treating this virus as an international epidemic that will start the zombie apocalypse is not helpful.

What the reaction to the virus also tells us is that it’s simply an excuse to be racist. Since the virus started in Wuhan, China, attitudes towards the country and the people who come from China have become much more negative. The majority of the jokes are not simply targeting the virus but the people themselves, as if Coronavirus is synonymous with the people of China. On the surface it seems like harmless fun but upon closer inspection, the impact is made clear. 

People who come from China or are any part Chinese are being mistreated or ostracized. They are told not to come into work unless they are sure they are not infected, told to wear surgical masks to keep from spreading germs, people avoid them for fear of getting sick and so on. It is good to take precautions against illness but ostracizing an entire nationality and treating them as lesser for something out of their control is ridiculous and cruel hearted. 

The counter argument to this is that the virus broke out in China, therefore, it is only fair to take precautions. Influenza started in America, and nobody ever mistreated or avoided any American person to keep from getting sick. This attitude sends a clear message: using the virus as a scapegoat to get away with racism and negative biases. Yes the disease is deadly, but the only people who have died have been the extremely old, the extremely young, or those with compromised immune systems. Healthy able-bodied people have nothing to fear and certainly have no grounds to be causing a panic. This virus is merely an excuse for people to get away with outdated prejudices, which is frankly very unhelpful and needs to stop.

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