Daily COVID-19 Update: March 18, 2020

Dear Bereans,

This is the update for Wednesday, March 18.  Again, there is quite a lot to report.

Announcement from the CDL

Our Governor has mandated that day care centers in Kentucky close no later than this Friday.  CDL Director Amanda Messer has decided to close at the end of the day on Friday.  She wanted me to share on her behalf “how wonderful it is that we have a staff and a college that has provided such wonderful and consistent care to our young children though uncertainty.”  At this point the closure is indefinite, but we will be monitoring the situation so that we can re-open as soon as permitted by the authorities and we have confirmed ourselves that it is safe to do so.

Announcement from the Financial Aid Office

Financial Aid Director Theresa Lowder has arranged for her staff to have the office open from 11:30a to 1:30p, M-F for a couple of weeks.  If students need SNAP letters or other items, they will be there to assist.  The hope is that scheduling during lunch hour would be the most convenient for students needing to come in.

A poignant reaction to the 2020 Graduation photo I shared yesterday

“A dear friend of mine whom I was going to visit this week in Boston used the phrase “missed future memory” to describe our not being together.”  That novel phrase captures well the feeling of knowing we will be missing out on the best shared day we have every year at Berea College.  We’re busily creating another, quite unique, set of memories, of course, and when we have had a chance to celebrate 300+ Berea success stories, I hope we will feel like we’ve found that missing memory.

A note from Facilities Management

Staff and faculty who are remaining on campus and need spray disinfectant to use on campus can contact the FM storeroom (via the store room order tab on the FM website) and will be able to order and pick up a spray bottle filled with Virex solution.  It can be used exactly like spray Lysol and used on the same surfaces and is on the EPA list of acceptable disinfectants for Covid19.  They can also purchase a roll of paper towels for their office if needed.   FM will begin filling these bottles tomorrow, but only have about 30 bottles on hand.  Luke will order another 50 or so.   We are dangerously low on Lysol/Clorox type wipes and sprays and are saving our reserve of those for very specific needs.

From Counseling Services

  • Those students who were patients of Rachel are able to receive a refill for 1 month. Contact Counseling Services for information, 859-985-3212;
  • Counseling will continue to be open for students living on campus and the Eco Village but will have limited face to face contact;
  • Counseling will do a 15-minute phone check-in with clients, these are not counseling sessions, only check-ins to gauge how the student is doing and to provide them with some tips and encouragement;
  • Students can call the Counseling Center if they feel the need for a 15-minute phone check-in; 859-985-3212.

We are a learning community

First and foremost, we are a learning community and it occurred to me that together we have a lot of knowledge about epidemics and our current situation, and, as well, of course, a lot of knowledge about many other things.  Learning communities are eager to share with one another and so I have invited academic departments to share perspectives on the COVID-19 pandemic from the point of view of their scholarly disciplines, promising to share their submissions unedited for the benefit of all.  I’ll include one such piece each day until they stop coming.  In the meantime, we also have a lot of knowledge and expertise in other areas of our organization, so I hereby extend that invitation to anyone with something to share, perspectives on this situation that might be of value to your fellow Bereans.  I am suggesting a word length of 200 words, and if you count carefully, the first submission I am running below missed that target by only about 250%.  However, in my read, I didn’t find anything I judged you wouldn’t be interested in, and, anyway, I did say, unedited.

An Asian Studies perspective on COVID-19

by Jeff Richey, Chair and Professor of Asian Studies

This is not the first time that a devastating disease has spread from East Asia to the rest of the world.  Like the “Black Death” of the 14thcentury and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome or SARS (2003), the novel SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that metamorphosed into the COVID-19 pandemic appears to have originated in China.  Because of these diseases’ associations with China, there has been an unfortunate tendency to blame such outbreaks on Chinese people and culture.  Incidents of verbal and physical harassment and abuse aimed at persons perceived to be Chinese have spiked worldwide, especially in the United States.  These racist acts, as well as President Trump’s use of the term “Chinese virus” to describe COVID-19, don’t limit the spread of the disease, but they do transmit antiquated racial hatreds that last reached pandemic levels in the 19th century, when U.S. and European media and politicians routinely described China as “the sick man of Asia.”  The Chinese “are uncivilized, unclean, filthy beyond all conception,” raved a New York Daily Tribune on September 29, 1854.  When contemporary media outlets falsely report that Chinese eating “bat soup” (a dish considered revolting by most Chinese and Americans alike) are to blame for COVID-19, they are reviving racist stereotypes that not only go back to the anti-Chinese fever that plagued 19th century America, but also to an even earlier wave of anti-foreign sentiment in the U.S.: prejudice against the Irish.

Nearly all of the negative tropes used to describe the Chinese were recycled from epithets originally devised to libel Irish immigrants, who represented 1/3 of foreigners settling in the U.S. between 1820 and 1860.  These anti-Irish tropes now have been recycled twice: first, to fuel the anti-Chinese sentiment that led to the U.S. Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 (the first U.S. immigration law that excluded an entire ethnic group not only from entry, but also from eligibility for U.S. citizenship), and now, to scapegoat the Chinese for the COVID-19 pandemic that has encircled the globe.  Ancient diseases such as bubonic plague and acute respiratory syndromes are tough to beat, but ancient hatreds have proven to be even more resilient.  COVID-19 is a culture-blind virus, but demonizing the “other” as unclean and diseased has a long and specific cultural history in the West.

In fact, we have much to learn from East Asian cultures about how to contain and stop this terrible illness.   The Confucian ethic of society before self has enabled effective collective action to take place in China, South Korea, and Taiwan, where recoveries from COVID-19 now outnumber active cases, which have steadily fallen in number over the past month.  However, Confucius himself said, “When you see a worthy person, think of becoming like him.  When you see someone not so good, reflect on your own weak points.” (Analects 4:17)  It’s also true that Confucian values such as fear of public shame may have inhibited the spread of information about the disease when it first appeared, a development that unfortunately coincided with end-of-the-year regional reporting to China’s central government, when local officials typically strive to present the best possible picture to Beijing.  Just as we can learn from the collective spirit of East Asian efforts to stop COVID-19’s spread, we also can learn from the tragic suppression of information that thwarted China’s early attempts to contain the disease before public-minded sentiments prevailed.