On January 23rd, Dr. Amy Patel, Medical Director of the Rebecca M. Sykes Wellness Center, sent out the first of three emails regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. The email stated that if students have had a history of travel to China and are experiencing minor respiratory symptoms, they should immediately visit Sykes. Additionally, the email highlighted the low risk of COVID-19 in the local community, citing the Massachusetts Public Health Commissioner that “the risk to the public from the 2019 novel coronavirus remains low in Massachusetts.’”
Despite the administration’s efforts to inform the Andover community about the facts of COVID-19, there continue to be instances of insensitive comments made about the fatal disease. These insensitive comments minimize a threat that is serious to many students on campus and creates a divide between domestic and international students. Given that the U.S. is more broadly considered a “low-risk” zone for COVID-19, it may be easy for domestic students to say that the outbreak does not affect them, nor is it a problem that Andover students face.
While it is true that COVID-19 is not yet a major domestic threat, we live in a community that is home to many students from around the globe. For many international students, the issue hits close to home, especially if they are unable to travel back home. Furthermore, quarantine policies leave students separated from their loved ones for extended periods of time.
International students already face the struggle of having to adapt to a new environment that may be vastly different from the places they call home. Seeing the trivialization of COVID-19 in this time of crisis leaves an integral section of our student body without proper support. As a result, students affected by the COVID-19 outbreak are left feeling marginalized and alone in a time where the Andover community should be at its most supportive.
As a community, we should rally behind our friends and loved ones who are being seriously affected by what some merely pass off as a joke. Such support could take the form of something as simple as checking in with those who are directly affected to offering those who cannot return home during break a place to stay. An institution that values “Youth From Every Quarter” should come together in support of the entirety of the student body, and we must educate ourselves before we panic or joke about sensitive topics like the COVID-19 outbreak.
This editorial represents the views of The Phillipian, vol. CXLIII.