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Please … wash your hands

February 28, 2020

This piece represents the opinion of the Bowdoin Orient Editorial Board.

On Thursday, Dean of Student Affairs Janet Lohmann sent an email to campus updating students on the College’s ongoing efforts to monitor the spread of COVID-19, commonly known as coronavirus. In her email, Lohmann pointed students towards a new FAQ page on the College’s website with information about the virus, preventative measures and travel-related advisories.

With the coronavirus dominating global headlines and on-campus conversations, it’s easy to panic. But as Lohmann’s email and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) have suggested, the best way for individuals to prepare for the expected spread of the virus in the United States is to educate themselves about the virus and to take reasonable precautions to stay healthy.

As students prepare to leave campus for spring break at the end of next week, it’s important to keep a few things in mind about the virus.

First, there is a lot that we don’t know. What we do know is there are about 60 confirmed cases in the United States, and global health experts are expecting the virus to spread throughout the continental U.S.. As you stay up to date with the spread of the virus, it’s critical to be discerning about your sources of information. Sensationalist media accounts and outright misinformation are already spreading on the internet and across social media. Don’t believe everything you read—rely on trusted sources like the CDC, the National Institutes of Health and the Maine Center for Disease Control.

While U.S. health officials expect that the virus will continue to spread through the country, the most recent reports have stressed that for the average, healthy adult, the fatality rate is low compared to similar viruses, in short: don’t panic.

Second, take reasonable precautions. As with the average flu virus, you can reduce your risk of exposure with a few common-sense strategies. Especially in the Bowdoin petri dish, these habits go a long way. (Think how many people touch the Thorne serving utensils … yuck.) The primary recommendations from CDC are as simple as washing your hands, avoiding contact with sick individuals and staying home when you feel sick.

Finally, be sensitive to the real human impact of the coronavirus around the globe. While the virus is still a distant threat in midcoast Maine, it has been deadly in Asia, Europe and the Middle East. It has had material and psychological effects on families and communities, and it’s important to keep in mind that falling into mass hysteria can obscure coronavirus’s true human costs. Check in with your friends who aren’t able to return home for spring break or who have families in the affected areas.

We are grateful that the College is monitoring the situation and has extended support to students whose travel plans and families have been affected by the virus. We hope that, as the situation develops, the College will continue to support students in whatever capacity proves necessary. And, for the love of God, wash your hands.

This editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which is comprised of Emily Cohen, Maia Coleman, Ellery Harkness, Alyce McFadden, Rebecca Norden-Bright and Ian Ward. 


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