Shockwaves in the Ocean State: Coronavirus Arrives in Rhode Island
by Julia Acquavita ’22
A hot topic lately among Providence College students and the state of Rhode Island has been the first reported diagnosed case of coronavirus in the state this past Sunday.
According to the New York Times, the first case of coronavirus in Rhode Island is a school administrator at St. Raphael Academy in Pawtucket, RI. This teacher, along with his students, had traveled to Italy and two other countries a week prior when “a travel advisory issued a warning of a coronavirus outbreak there,” according to this New York Times article.
This past Sunday, an email went out to the parents of students’ at the academy informing them that this administrator had tested positive for the coronavirus, only returning from abroad on Feb. 22.
One common theme that can be seen with the virus is that when it spreads, it spreads fast. This was evident when a third email went out from the school’s head administrator informing parents that “a teenage girl on the same trip had also tested positive and that a second adult chaperone, a woman in her 30s, had developed symptoms and was also undergoing testing” according to this same New York Times article.
After reading these articles about the first few cases popping up in Rhode Island, PC students immediately became concerned. Many demanded answers about what was going on and what procedures and precautions the College would put in place to protect their students from contracting the virus.
When asked about her general reaction and thoughts regarding the situation, Abbey Lee ’22 answered, “I am just trying to take it [news about the spreading of the Coronavirus] day-by-day. If things continue to get worse nationally and locally, I know PC will take the proper precautions for its students.”
In the early evening on Monday, Providence College’s President, Father Brian F. Shanley, O.P., sent out an email with an update on the coronavirus and how the school plans on handling the situation.
Fr. Shanley made it a point to let students know that “the risk of infection remains low,” despite the two confirmed cases of the virus in Rhode Island, and a third case currently being tested. Fr. Shanley explained that the school will continue to monitor the coronavirus situation and will update students and faculty as necessary.
However, he claimed that he and the school’s advice remains the same as last week: “take precautions to keep yourself healthy and make sure you stay informed about specific health and travel advisories.” Such precautions include washing your hands consistently, as that has been described as one of the main ways to avoid contracting the virus.
Also mentioned in Fr. Shanley’s email was a web page created by the school with links to useful sources with details about how to keep yourself healthy, as provided by the Rhode Island Department of Health.
These precautionary steps included getting a seasonal flu vaccination, coughing and sneezing into your elbow or sleeve, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, avoid close contact with people who are sick, and wash your hands frequently using soap and warm water. Even though some of these precautions seem like common sense, the Rhode Island Department of Health highly encourages Rhode Island residents to take part in such actions as a means to prevent the further spreading of the virus.
This email to students went a step further by advising students and faculty about certain considerations to make when traveling and how to manage the anxiety associated with the spreading of the virus.
Fr. Shanley included that extensive advice for travelers is available on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s website, which includes information about “certain travel restrictions [that] are already in place and it is possible that new ones, including quarantines, could be implemented in the coming days and weeks.” Students and faculty certainly must take these thoughts into consideration as spring break is right around the corner, and many members of the PC community plan on traveling.
Fr. Shanley wrapped up his email by mentioning that he understands that news about the spreading of the coronavirus on a global scale and now on a local scale can cause anxiety among students. In response to this, he provided a link with some tips to help manage this anxiety. Some of these tips, from the American Psychological Association, included keeping things in perspective, making sure you get all the facts before you react in a certain way, and even seeking additional help from the PC’s personal counseling center if necessary.
At the end of the email, Fr. Shanley made sure to include that we need “to emphasize the importance of compassion and understanding” at this critical time. “Ours is a community that prides itself on taking care of each other. It has always been that way, and it will continue to be as we navigate these concerns.”
Coronavirus Affects Study Abroad Students: What Measures PC and Other Schools are Taking to Ensure Safety
by Kyle Burgess ’21
With the beginning of spring in sight and the perceived long-awaited end to flu season, the rapid emergence of COVID-19 in China, more commonly referred to as coronavirus, has sent shockwaves as well as carriers throughout the globe.
Recent cases of patients who have contracted the virus in countries such as South Korea, Italy, and even the United States have only added to increasing worldwide paranoia and led to many national governments taking precautionary measures to prevent the disease from spreading.
Providence College students who are currently spending a semester abroad in Italy now find themselves in the path of contamination with growing numbers of patients admitted to hospitals in regions such as Lombardy and Veneto. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) as well as the State Departments have both since ranked Italy at Level 3 for “Avoid Nonessential Travel” and “Reconsider Travel,” respectively.
In a recent email to PC students abroad in Rome from Dean of Global Education Joe Stanley, PC students have the choice of continuing their programs onsite through remote coursework or returning home to the U.S. while also completing courses remotely for credit. Those students who elect to return are not offered housing back on PC’s campus nor are their travel costs covered by the College.
“As of right now, it seems as though we are in what I would call a ‘limbo period,’” explained Sean Breuche ’21, who is currently studying in Rome. “Our classes are suspended until March 16, and more and more universities/colleges with students in Rome are being instructed to leave the country for the United States. Given past conversations with these students, it feels that a majority of them will be taking online courses upon their return to the States.”
Breuche also noted how he and his classmates continue to receive constant communication from his host university, CEA Global Education, as well as Dean of Global Education Grace Cleary. The students themselves are well-aware of the media’s hyperbolic presentation of the virus, but Breuche explained that they all simply want closure as to what their situation will be.
“While all of us Providence College students want to stay here (after all, it’s paradise here), we just want an answer as soon as possible. I am sure PC is looking out in our best interest, but I strongly feel that they are currently delaying the inevitable, in that Italy will only become more infected and we will have to return home in the near future,” commented Breuche.
However, not all PC students abroad have reason for high hopes. Olivia Moss ’21 studied in Florence with Fairfield University Abroad before Fairfield University made the executive decision to send her home to Long Island, NY.
“The PC students and I all went through Fairfield so Fairfield ultimately made the decision to send us home,” Moss explained. “Our school in Florence (FUA), however, did not close or even cancel our classes so I’m personally really upset that Fairfield made this decision so quickly without consulting FUA for advice.”
Moss continued stating her frustration, saying, “When a few students and I went to talk to FUA, they weren’t even aware that we were being sent home and that Fairfield cancelled our program. Now, we have been sent home with no information from Fairfield on what their plan is because they won’t accept online forms of the classes we have been taking for the last month at FUA.”
Additionally, Moss and her classmates did not get refunds for the costs incurred in travelling back home, alongside the lack of direction for how their academic semester will proceed. The students were, however, offered housing on Fairfield University’s campus and were permitted to take online classes from there or the comfort of their own homes.
“There is also talk of normal classes offered at Fairfield but they haven’t formed any kind of construct for the remainder of the semester and we’re supposed to resume classes March 16,” Moss added.
PC has since reached out to Moss and her classmates via email to assure them of the school’s commitment to getting their credits transferred in their talks with Fairfield University.
As of March 2, the annual liberal arts honors program trip was cancelled due to escalating concerns about a potential coronavirus outbreak while visiting Paris, France. This announcement comes a day following the closing of the Louvre Museum for similar fears, as well as discussions between trip chairs Drs. Stephen Lynch and Suzanne Fournier with the PC Global Education Office and tour company EF Tours.
With inflated fears over this supposed super virus continuing to mount to dizzying heights back home in the U.S. and elsewhere, it remains to be seen what lies in store for PC students abroad in other countries in the coming weeks.
Bursting the PC Bubble: Coronavirus
by Will Devaney ’23
An outbreak of a mysterious illness called the coronavirus is leaving thousands infected across the world. Originating in Wuhan, China, it is believed that the virus originated in contaminated fish at a local sea market.
Since the outbreak started in December, more than 6,000 people have been infected and more than 130 deaths have been reported. Although the vast majority of the infected are in China, several cases of the virus were reported in many neighboring Asian countries.
On Jan. 26, the United States’ fifth confirmed case of the virus was reported in Los Angeles. France and Australia have also confirmed cases of the virus.
Coronavirus can cause a variety of symptoms, from a cough and fever to severe pneumonia. Most of the fatalities in this most recent outbreak are older patients with preexisting conditions.
In most cases, the infection is transmitted only from animal to animal, but this Wuhan coronavirus can be spread by humans to other humans.
China’s National Health Commission Minister, Ma Xiaowei, told reporters that the virus is getting stronger and can spread much easier than previously thought. He added that people can spread the virus weeks before they even start to show symptoms.
In recent days, the Chinese government has dramatically ramped up its efforts to quarantine the virus by putting 16 cities on lockdown, affecting over 46 million people. The U.S. State Department has even ordered all its employees to evacuate Wuhan.
The virus strikes China during one of its busiest travel seasons of the year, the Lunar New Year. Even though most major celebrations have been canceled, millions of Chinese citizens will be traveling across the country, which may make the outbreak harder to control. The World Health Organization (WHO) is working rapidly to treat the infected and provide preventative care to those most vulnerable to the virus.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has made plans to travel to Wuhan this week. On Sunday he tweeted, “We are working 24/7 to support [China] & its people during this difficult time & remain in close contact with affected countries, with our regional & country offices deeply involved. @WHO is updating all countries on the situation & providing specific guidance on what to do to respond.”
This is not the first time a serious form of coronavirus has infected millions. From 2002-2003, the coronavirus SARS infected millions in China and spread globally before international efforts stopped the pandemic. In 2012, another form of the coronavirus, called MERS, emerged in Saudi Arabia allegedly from human contact with infected camels. Over 1,000 cases were reported and over 400 people died before the outbreak ended.
Per CNN, “By far the most important measures to stop the Wuhan coronavirus will be those related to hospitals and how well medical teams can contain the virus.” While top WHO officials and scientists do not believe the outbreak will stop anytime soon, there are actions that can be taken to stop the virus.