COVID-19, the virus that has gone viral
Taryn Zard, Staff Writer
“Being concerned is fine, it helps us stay alert and change our behaviors, an example is face-touching. Like all diseases, much of this [COVID-19] is out of our control, but there are many things we can do to stay healthy. I think if concern turns to fear we start making bad decisions, and we start looking for someone to blame—that’s not helpful,” reported Aaron Coby, Ph.D., Saint Martin’s professor in biology and Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences in early March.
Coby continued with the advice of “wash your hands. Stop touching your face. When cases become identified in the area, avoid groups of people crammed into small spaces.”
Everyone is well aware of COVID-19 which originated in Wuhan, China in December of 2019.
Most people were not that concerned at first, as the virus seemed to be concentrated in China alone. After a short period of time, however, the virus seemed to have spread everywhere people looked. Many realized the severity of the situation and implemented protocols for protection and sanitation.
COVID-19 is part of a large family of viruses, known as coronaviruses, that can cause a slew of illnesses, which range from the common cold, MERS-CoV—Middle East Respiratory Syndrome—and SARS-CoV—Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. COVID-19 has been identified as a new strain of coronavirus.
Megan Friesen, Ph.D., is a biology professor at Saint Martin’s University. When interviewed at the beginning of March about her thoughts on COVID-19, she thought the school was making good choices to put extra safety measures in place. All precautions that have been set in place are a good idea, as it is never a bad idea to be extra careful to minimize risk. The best advice anyone can give right now is to practice good hygiene and be aware of their surroundings.
Following Saint Martin’s decision to move all classes online, Friesen noted that “labs are trickier,” and that there would be more worksheets in the lab workbook, case studies, analyses, labs, and other online videos. Friesen advised that if students feel unwell they should remain at home, and that people in general should make all efforts they can to minimize their risk of exposure.
It is important to remember that there are other people in the community that the virus might affect more. In response to this, Saint Martin’s University placed hand sanitizer stations throughout the campus, with a focus on highly populated areas.
The O’Grady library staff stepped in and started a timesheet of how frequently computers and tables should be cleaned with Clorox wipes. The campus has been monitoring the virus closely, as well as any updates from Governor Jay Inslee, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the World Health Organization.
Coby emphasized that although someone might be unaffected or feel fine, they could be a carrier and negatively affect someone who has a weaker immune system or is immunocompromised. Coby agreed that washing hands on a regular basis with soap and warm water, for at least 20 seconds, is always a good idea.
Additionally, it is not the sole responsibility of cleaning staff to keep areas as sanitary as possible; everyone can contribute some aid in times of need by stepping up and taking extra precautions.
Coby remarked that “it will be interesting to look back on the coming months and see how the occurrence of other illnesses, like the common flu or cold, have changed. I suspect we’ll see a dip in cases due to the heightened awareness and behavior changes.”
Good hygiene and the practice of healthy habits are always a smart idea. Although difficult to believe at times, it is important to note that there are similarities between seasonal influenza (the “common” flu), and COVID-19.
Saint Martin’s President, Roy Heynderickx, Ph.D., recently made the decision to cancel in-person classes for the rest of the semester to minimize risk of exposure. While classes will now be hosted online, in light of the recent executive order by Gov. Inslee, the Saint Martin’s campus will be closed for the remainder of the semester.
Additionally, the decision was made last week to ask the vast majority of residential students to leave campus and return home until next school year. For seniors, this meant leaving Saint Martin’s campus physically for the last time.
With so much information on the state of the world one can easily feel overwhelmed.
According to Coby, “ stress can have good short-term effects, like heightened awareness,” however, he continued with the knowledge that “over the long-term it [stress] changes the biochemistry of our bodies, hormonal and cell-to-cell communication, which can suppress our immune response.”