Coyo-Tea Episode 3

Crazy About Coronavirus


Sagun Shrestha

On this episode, Howl Staff discusses the recent Coronavirus outbreaks in the county.

Sagun Shrestha, Editor-In-Chief

Editor-In-Chief Sagun Shrestha has a talk with junior Asma Tariq about the most recent Coronavirus outbreaks in Montgomery County and the misconceptions behind the widespread panic.


Sagun: Hi, I’m Sagun Shrestha and this is the third episode of Coyo-tea. I’m joined by…

Asma: …Asma Tariq…

Sagun: …to discuss the recent Coronavirus outbreak. As of the evening of March 5th, the community was informed of three confirmed Coronavirus cases of people who reside in Montgomery County. In the midst of this chaos, we want to talk about the misconceptions surrounding the virus. So my first question would be, what are some of the misconceptions surrounding the virus?

Asma: I think that one of the first, one of the main misconceptions is that it’s so awful and it’s the end of the world and everyone’s going to get sick and everyone’s gonna die, and that it’s just this huge pandemic thing, and that’s just not true. When you look at the numbers, and you look at the cases of the flu and how many people die each year from just the flu strains, and then the number of people are infected and have died from Corona, although it’s still a big number is not as big, or not as scary as people are making it out to be. Obviously media and newspapers need their clicks and their headlines and so it instills fear in people, but I think there is a lot of worry, and those worries and those fear is not going to lead to anything productive for anybody, in terms of just society and in terms of finding a cure and how to treat it, and like all the stigma that’s starting to develop. I think that people need to look at the hard facts instead of just their favorite Twitter account, or something someone puts on their Instagram story. I think the best way to do it is to look at the CDC and the WHO and look at their information that they’re putting out because that’s more trustworthy.

Sagun: And the virus isn’t actually that threatening to especially young people, right?

Asma: Right, right.

Sagun: So it targets the elderly?

Asma: Right. And that’s how it goes for anything, like the flu too. Weaker immune systems are obviously going to struggle a lot more. And the youth, and not even the youth, I would say even my parents, my mom who’s just in her 40s, she’s not that threatened either. She’s not going to be threatened either. Even my dad who’s in his 50s, he’s not that threatened because it really is just a cold. If you were to catch it, obviously it depends on person to person, we don’t know how it’s going to evolve if it does evolve, but currently, it’s just like having a cold. You sneeze and you cough for a few days and you get better and that’s just how it is. People think that it’s a whole thing where you’re in quarantine, and they put it in lens with the Ebola virus, which it’s not. It’s not Ebola or SARS or Bird flu, it’s not like those things.

Sagun: Especially considering it only has about a 2% mortality rate, right?

Asma: Exactly, and that’s all concentrated towards the elderly.

Sagun: So what are some ways you can actually prevent from catching the Coronavirus?

Asma: Well for that, we obviously don’t know that much about it. Even the CDC and the World Health Organization, they’re saying that they’re still trying to understand what this virus is and it’s exact causes, but there’s hunches that scientists are saying. It’s basic stuff, like wash your hands, that’s just something that you should be doing anyway during the flu season and during sick season. You wash your hands and use hand sanitizer. I think that a lot of things in the beginning with all the face masks, I think that it was sort of scary for people. It’s also important to remember that although it originated in Asia and everyone there was using masks and you see the masks in the headlines and stuff. Masks are reportedly, obviously I don’t know how it’s going to change if it does change, but reportedly, it isn’t even spread through the air, it’s spread through water droplets from coughing. The culture in those Asian countries is to wear masks, even on a daily basis for pollution reasons, for air quality reasons. So for them, masks are just normal, it’s a normal part of life. For us it seems like such a new and strange thing and so you feel like it’s so much worse now, now we have to wear masks and stuff, so I feel like, again, it’s just a matter of being educated on what’s real and what’s not.

Sagun: There was talk of MCPS preparing to close down schools because of the Coronavirus and what do you think are the chances of something like that happening are?

Asma: I think it really depends. There’s two sides. There’s one side where they’re not going to close because obviously Montgomery County has a population of 1.4 million people, and only three of those people have the Coronavirus and those are for reasons of travelling and they were quarantined immediately after they found out. For those reasons, I personally don’t think that schools should close, I don’t know whether they will or not, but I don’t think they should close because the College Board isn’t going to wait for anyone. Kids have APs coming up, kids have SATs coming up. Those things aren’t going to wait, those national organizations are not going to wait for one county to get over their threats, so I think that school should continue as long as there’s not threat. But I also understand the point of view of parents of kids here who are probably frightened or scared and they really don’t want their kids to get sick, it’s understandable. And also for MCPS, scared parents means that if something were to go wrong and schools were open and they were held accountable for it, that would mean a pretty big lawsuit, which I know is something every single county will want to avoid, so we’ll just see how it goes. I really have no idea.

Sagun: When we talk about the Coronavirus and how it did originate in Asia, how do you think racism is playing a role in how this virus is perceived?

Asma: I think that racism is something that’s seen before. With the Ebola virus, there was a lot of stigma against Africans and African-Americans and it was seen that this stigma was seen. But it’s important to realize that the virus now, when it is coming to the West is not just Asian people. A lot of it are just travellers from American citizens themselves who were travelling for work or were travelling to Europe. If you’re a Chinese American and you’ve never been to China in your life, then you’re just as likely to get it as a White American here. It’s just the same. It’s just easy for people to point at someone or to look at a certain group of people and just put the blame on it. It’s such a scary thing, such a frightening thing, a disease, because humans are powerless to nature until we figure those things out. I guess that fear, people wanna find someone to blame and unfortunately for this certain disease, those people are Chinese people. And I think it’s really awful, the people avoiding Chinese businesses, and then it just becomes a thing of use your brain, just to put it kindly. The virus does not spread through food, does not spread through any of that. This whole ‘let’s avoid Chinese businesses, let’s avoid Chinatown, let’s make these businesses struggle, these honest, hard working people struggle for reasons that are out of their control and that they themselves fear’ I think it’s really wrong.It’s just another thing that society does. We’ve seen it before and I think we’re going to keep seeing it again and again, whenever anything like this arises. It’s just easier to blame people.

Sagun: And I think we can see that it’s not only Chinese people that are being affected. It’s a lot of East Asian people. I remember reading a story about how a Singaporean and Korean man was attacked in London because people claimed that he had the virus.

Asma: Right, and that’s just how sad. They’re not the ones who are purposefully spreading this disease, they don’t want to get sick, their kids to get sick. It’s not even their fault. How could you blame someone for a disease? Just a regular person, a fellow classmate, or a fellow college student or a fellow coworker for making a whole disease, for being the cause of that when that’s just how nature works. That’s not anything that anyone can control.

Sagun: It almost seems that at this rate, people find any reason to be racist.

Asma: Yeah! Oh my gosh. For sure, 100%. Any time anything like this happens, any event that happens worldwide, when the whole World War 3 scares were starting to talk about Middle Easterners and Muslims and the whole North Korea thing, how we look at Koreans. People want someone to blame, and it’s so easy for people to blame people that aren’t like them, and you group people together, and you’re like ‘this person caused all of this and this is the reason.’ For you in your mind it’s easier to cope with it, but it’s wrong, it’s not right to cope that way. It’s not how you should be dealing with things.

Sagun: Yeah, so I guess it’s sort of a general thing, a general trend that we’ve been seeing throughout history in general. Sorry to end on such a negative…

Asma: …sad…

Sagun: …note, but that is about all we have for today. Thank you once again for listening to the third episode of Coyo-tea. I’m Sagun Shrestha and this is…

Asma: Asma Tariq.

Sagun: Thank you.