Novel Coronavirus sparks concern across campus

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The recent outbreak of a novel Coronavirus originating in Wuhan, China has become a cause for concern across not only China, but the world.

The novel Coronavirus is a new form of Coronavirus which attacks the respiratory system and displays evidence of limited human-to-human transmission. Symptoms include coughing, difficulty breathing and fever, similar to that of the flu and other common respiratory infections.

There is no known cure for the novel Coronavirus at the moment, and complications of the virus can result in pneumonia, kidney failure and, in some cases, death.

So far, there have been 139 people who have undergone or are undergoing testing for the novel Coronavirus in Ontario, with 90 cases confirmed negative, 12 cases presumed negative, 34 currently under investigation and only three confirmed positive cases.

Wilfrid Laurier University is closely monitoring the situation and while Public Health Ontario has named Ontario a low risk area for the time being, Laurier is appropriately prepared to act in case this changes.

“Essentially, the risk is still low in Ontario and in Canada at large and at Laurier we’ve got a work group that is preparing and is monitoring the situation right now,” said Tony Araujo, vice-president of finance and administration at Laurier.

“We go by the health professionals and what they tell us, so our public health unit is telling us that it’s a very low risk right now, and we trust in that fact and we’re preparing for it, and we’re ready if we need to respond to something much more than that.”

Laurier is following the advice of public health agencies at local, provincial and federal levels, who have been conducting lab-testing and infection-control procedures.

As of right now, the Canadian government has issued a travel advisory stating to avoid all non-essential travel to China and to forego all travel to the Hubei province as a whole.

Laurier has followed suit, cancelling all university-sanctioned travel to China for staff, faculty and students alike.

The university travel ban includes exchange, research activities and placements, field courses, conferences, university business and any other travel approved or authorized by Wilfrid Laurier University. Currently there is no time estimate regarding when university-related travel to China will resume.

“We are really going to take our lead from the federal government, and you know, how Canada [proceeds],” Araujo said.

“It’s very hard for us who are here and not really understanding the full scope of how things are unfolding in China, it’s difficult to make those choices. But at some point, I would expect that we would resume some level of cautious travel, if not wide-open travel in the future, but we’re just not there yet.”

Despite the fact that Laurier prides itself on its diverse and inclusive community, there have been local reports of racism directed towards people of Asian and Chinese descent in reaction to the novel Coronavirus.

Whether this racism is a product of fear or misinformation, this kind of behaviour is condemned by the Laurier community as a whole and people are encouraged to educate themselves on the virus and treat others with respect rather than prejudice.

If you are a student at Laurier who has experienced racism, there are resources on campus which are available to help, including the Dean of Students Offices, International Student Support, the Centre for Student Equity Diversity and Inclusion, the Office of Dispute Resolution and Special Constables Service.

In order to stay healthy, Students are encouraged to follow basic flu season protocol, such as washing hands, carrying hand sanitizer and avoiding close contact with others exhibiting flu ike symptoms.

For more information and updates on the novel Coronavirus, visit Laurier’s designated Coronavirus page.

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