Don’t stigmatize the coronavirus

Don't stigmatize the coronavirus

Mayanka Dhingra, Managing Editor

What if I told you I have coronavirus.

Will you look at me differently? Will my name travel via whispers through the halls? Will I return after my recovery to pointing fingers and stares. Will I go down in school history as HM’s patient zero?

As much as we pride ourselves on being a caring community, at the present moment I worry the answers to these questions would overwhelmingly be yes.

Okay, you can breathe now. I, thankfully, do not have coronavirus.

Since the outbreak started in Wuhan, coronavirus has been on all of our minds. And, rightfully so. There are real questions we should consider such as the extent to which our government is equipped to respond to the real possibility of a pandemic or how this distinctly impacts more vulnerable populations.

Prior to the past week, admittedly, the threat of the virus felt distant and in turn far too easy to make light of. From TikTok sounds to Instagram memes and boycotts of the popular beer, coronavirus has taken center stage in not only public discourse but in internet culture.

The reality is members of our community and those close to us may very well contract this virus. After all, what sets the virus apart is its striking transmission rate in the absence of an effective vaccine.

But the stigma surrounding the virus may pose an additional and unnecessary barrier to us beating it not only as a global community, but as a school.

No one should be afraid to admit if they are sick. No one should be worried about how others will perceive them for contracting a virus over which none of us have absolutely any control.
As more and more cases present themselves and reach our campus, we need to focus on helping members of our community receive the treatment they need while not being made to feel singled out.

Fortunately, for most of us, our age shields us from the potential for more severe and in some cases potentially fatal effects that this virus holds. At the same time, appearance can never be taken as an indicator of health. Regardless of age, compromised immune systems or other conditions mean that we need to be sensitive to the various ways in which different people will be affected by this in the coming weeks.

The virus has been a recurring topic of discussion in every single one of my classes. On Tuesday I asked my co-workers at the New-York Historical Society how their schools were reacting to the outbreak. Many attend public schools outside of Manhattan. What was clear is that many of their schools aren’t planning for the same contingency measures we are or taking time to discuss the matter with students. What was also clear is that there is the same level of fear and anxiety that many of us have here.

In addition to unique ways this virus affects us according to our medical history, it will also affect people according to socio-economic status. According to The New York Times there are 300 million children worldwide whose school systems are closed due to the coronavirus. If public schools in the United States are forced to close there will be significant burdens placed on parents from substituting free lunch with home meals to the parents with young children that need someone to look after their children while they are at work.

Understanding the larger context might help us put into perspective our own personal disappointments during this time due to new school policies in response to coronavirus concerns from cancelled Spring Break sports trips to various afterschool activities and events. These cancellations have invoked an emotional response from many students, particularly those belonging to the senior class Its true: it is really furstrustating. It is also true that in many ways this is beyond our control and could be far, far worse.

So, to my fellow seniors, let’s take this in stride and continue having an amazing senior year. Let’s refuse for our class to be coined Cor20na. Let’s do all that we can do. That is, to make sure those around us feel like they have the unconditional support from their peers and trust in our administration to make informed decisions.