Situation reports by the World Health Organization state the coronavirus has recently spread worldwide, causing widespread panic. The spread of the disease, also known as COVID-19, has not only had an effect on the world, but also in local communities, including Portland State.
Christina Luther, an international student advisor at PSU, confirmed there are currently 213 students enrolled from China, five of whom are from Wuhan. Luther said students “have [said] that their parents have not worked for more than a month now because of the restrictions on movement, particularly in Wuhan, but also elsewhere around China.”
Recent quarantines have restricted Chinese residents from leaving their homes to work, which the students are feeling immediate impact from.
“They are not being paid, so the students studying here are struggling financially,” Luther said. “Their parents are often their sole source of financial support.”
An international student from China told Luther their family works in rice and fish farming, and because of speculation surrounding fish and sourcing the virus, the fish market is suffering as a consequence. Additionally, travel restrictions are preventing farmers from crucial times of the year for harvesting.
Luther said students are worried for the well-being of their loved ones back home and the health of their families. She encourages “any students who are experiencing any harassment, or who are worried and just need someone to talk to about their experience to reach out to our office or to the Counseling Center at SHAC.”
“It’s hard to help if we don’t know who needs help,” Luther said.
Nearly 80,000 confirmed cases of the virus are in China, and there have been recent outbreaks listing from Korea, Iran and Italy, according to the World Health Organization. Basic procedures can be found on the WHO website, including misconceptions and prevention. There is currently no vaccine present to prevent COVID-19.
PSU’s Office of International Affairs has offered any support since January to students impacted by the outbreak. The Power of International Education organization has opened emergency funding for universities to nominate students for support during the upcoming spring term. Four PSU students have been nominated by the department.
The coronavirus outbreak has also brought racial discrimination against people of Asian nationality along with the panic. CNN reported many instances of discrimination against people of Asian nationality, including a viral video of a Japanese woman being harrassed on a Los Angeles Subway.
Associate Vice President for University Communications Chris Broderick stated “We are talking to all of our Chinese international students about [the Coronavirus] to support them, because that’s very stressful for them because their families are back [in China].”
“We also have some students who are on study abroad in China and are trying [to] get them back to the U.S. because that’s what the state department has advised,” Broderick said.
Broderick also said the PSU incident response team has been planning for procedures in case the disease does spread locally.