Lunar New Year celebration delayed for safety

Activities postponed due to Coronavirus outbreak, future events planned

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To celebrate the Year of , the Mouse, a Lunar New Year celebration was planned for Jan. 24 in the lobby of the Henderson Campus Center. Organized and sponsored by the Chinese-American Friendship Society, Department of Modern and Classical Languages, Chinese Studies Program and the International Education Office, the event was postponed due to the coronavirus currently sweeping throughout the world. The event would have featured Chinese dances, Asian food and a horsehead fiddle, which is a Mongolian instrument.

The decision was made by Xiaoling Shi, associate professor of Chinese.

“The day I decided to cancel (the event) was the day that the Chinese government decided to lock down Wuhan city, so … since the virus could be latent for 14 days — since patients could have no symptoms but still (be infected) and have very bad consequences because of it — we decided that we shouldn’t hold (the event) until we are certain about the prospect,” Shi said. “We will still do it but as of now, we don’t know when (it) would happen. It all depends on the virus.”

Shi said she felt that because of the nature of the virus, it was not the time to gather a large number  of people in a confined space. Instead, International Education held a casual celebration at noon on Friday, Jan. 24.

“We still celebrated, but on a much smaller scale for the safety of the community,” Shi said. “I feel that as of now, it was the right decision, …, (there have) been five cases across the U.S., and we don’t know what would happen at big cities like Boston or Washington, D.C..”

Shi and Becky Dawson, professor of Global Health Studies and Biology, both confirmed that no Allegheny students or faculty were prevented from returning back to the country after winter break. Two Allegheny students had planned to study abroad in China during the spring 2020 semester.

“We have, right now, two students studying abroad in China, and both of them in Nanjing, China,” Shi said. “The college has decided they should no longer (study there). They are making other study plans for them, so I think the college is making the right move, and I’m happy to see our administration actually is aware (of) what is happening and taking action.”

Shi believes that to prevent a possible outbreak, the College should check the itinerary of the students who returned from China.

“We need to raise our alertness about it,” Shi said. “I would like to say that the chances that we are affected as a community are low because we don’t have (a big) population here.”

Shi herself is from Wuhan, China, where the outbreak originated. Although she has not been back for about five years, Shi said, she has family and friends still living in the city.

“Right now, I’m personally under a lot of stress because all of my family, friends and classmates, are in this situation,” Shi said. “As far as I know, nobody actually went out of (the) city. From the news, a lot of the people went out of the city between the time the government announced (the lockdown) … and the time that they actually implemented (the lockdown). As far as I know, no family members, friends, classmates (of mine) actually went out of the city. I feel that I’m in a much safer environment, but they are in a constant anxiety.”

Xingbang Liu, ’20, is also from Wuhan, but did not visit over winter break.

“I come from the city where it originated, and my whole family is there, so I’m worried about them,” Liu said. “I called them a few days ago — they said they are fine and they’re currently not in the city at the moment, so I guess it would be fine.”

Shi believes that the situation will improve since the CDC and WHO have intervened. She said she trusts the medical professionals at Winslow Health Center to handle the situation.

“My family, my friends and my classmates will do their best to get through,” Shi said. “I also hope (there) are able to be no more cases in the U.S., but who knows.”

President Hilary L. Link sent a campus-wide email regarding the virus on Wednesday, informing the college community that administrators have met with the medical personnel at Meadville Medical Center.

“Signs and symptoms of coronavirus and influenza are very similar,” the email read. “If you are running a high fever and have a mild-to-severe respiratory illness, with a cough, sore throat, and/or difficulty breathing, please call Winslow Health Center at (814) 332-4355 to set up an appointment to be seen by a physician or nurse practitioner as soon as possible.”