A Message To Students In Times of COVID-19

HERO coronavirus

Dear Folks–

[This message is going out to students in my Purdue Northwest University(PNW) courses this semester]

I hope each of you are safe and well. I want to say hello and touch base with each of you.

I am sharing some very serious information below.  Please read.  I do this to get your attention, but not to cause you to panic.  Still, you probably don’t want to read this if you’re feeling vulnerable; get to it as soon as you feel stronger.  But get to it!  And, while lengthy, please read the entire message.

As I hope you have each realized, this Coronavirus stuff is REAL.  There has been a lot of false information put out, and I’ve been trying to understand things as completely as I can so I can pass on accurate information to you.

(1)  First of all, regarding PNW (Purdue University Northwest):  classes are supposed to re-start next week.  However, they will be on-line only (unless you get specific instructions from other instructors re labs, internships, etc.):  all of my courses will be on-line. I expect now that we will meet on-line at the same time that we’ve been meeting throughout the first part of the semester, but I will confirm this in the next day or two.  I am working to adjust accordingly, and will have instructions soon on how we do this.  Be aware that while the Chancellor initially thought this would be for two weeks only, as of yesterday, he said this would be for the rest of the semester, including Finals.  Further, it does not look now like we will have graduation ceremonies in May–and I’m sorry about that for those of you who are graduating.  Further, all Summer courses will be on-line only as well (again, with the same provisos as above).

This will (obviously) require some major accommodations.  I will say, from what I know, that these precautions are warranted, and I’m glad the Chancellor is taking this situation seriously.

(2)  Like I said, the Coronavirus situation is REAL, and it is a real threat to the lives and well-being of each of us.  PLEASE IGNORE ANY MESSAGES TO THE CONTRARY, regardless of where they come from.  Right now, the best information I have seen is that epidemiologists (the people who study diseases and their transmission routes) say that this virus is going to cause large numbers of people to get sick and die:  if things continue as they have been, possibly 1.8 MILLION people could die across the country.  (That is not a misprint.)

The biggest problem is that people can be infected and not show any symptoms for around three days, and sometimes as much as 14 days.  In other words, one does not have to show symptoms to be contagious!

That’s the bad news.  The good–or shall we say LESS BAD–news is that most people will not get infected (especially if they are protecting themselves–see below) and of those who get infected, the large majority will NOT die; for 80% of those infected, it will be like a bad flu, but it’s not life threatening.  Of the other 20%, some will get real sick–and require hospitalization–and a smaller proportion will die.

Fortunately, for most of you, being young and healthy, should you get infected, the direct impact is likely to be of the bad cold/flu variety.

The people most at risk are people over 60, and especially those who have challenged immune systems.  This could be your parents or especially your grandparents.  It is especially important that they get accurate information so they have the best chances to protect themselves.

(3)  It is vitally important that each of you protect yourselves–do not wait for governmental officials to tell you what to do, as most of them–at the federal, state and local levels–are behind the curve.  (We have suffered a real crisis of leadership in meeting this pandemic.)  Below is the best information that I can find as of today.

Please stay at home unless absolutely necessary.  (This is especially important for those over 60, and especially for those older and have challenged immune systems.)  You can go out to buy food, get medical prescriptions, or go to the doctor to get medical attention; you can go out for exercise, but not for socializing.  The US Center for Disease Control, who is passing out good information, was saying avoid crowds of 50 or more; the latest advice now is to avoid crowds larger than 10.

What this means is that IF/WHEN you go out, you avoid people as much as possible.  If you have to interact with them, try to stay six (6) feet away from them if possible.  Obviously, avoid ANYONE who is coughing.  Take care of your business, and go directly home.  Once you are home, use soap and water and WASH YOUR HANDS THOROUGHLY, and at least for 20 seconds.  (Even if you are not around anyone who seems to have symptoms, you will be touching door handles and other things which may have been touched by someone who is sick, and thoroughly washing your hands will protect you.)

You want to avoid touching your face as much as possible–you’ll be surprised at how often we unconsciously do so.  Yet, eyes, nose and mouth are key pathways for infection, so try not to touch.

If you have to cough, please cough into your arm or elbow:  do NOT cough into your hand!  (Should you be infected and not know it, you could be transmitting the virus to anyone who shakes your hand, touches a door knob following you, etc.)

You will want to eat as healthily as possible–this will help maintain your resistance.  You can drink alcohol, etc., but I would do this in moderation.  Also, you will want to try to maintain regular sleep patterns if possible.

And here’s where it gets tricky:  you want to stay in touch with friends and family; you want to avoid social isolationCertainly using social media is one way to do this, but you have to discipline yourself to ignore things that say the Coronavirus is a myth, is a conspiracy, etc.; it is neither.  Please do not pass on “information” that you are not sure of:  rumors, lies or plain bullshit are threats to the well-being of us all.  Better yet, is to keep in touch with friends and family through e-mail, and even better yet, is by calling them on your phone.  They need to hear from you, and you need to hear from them!  Please do not isolate yourself!

(4)  If you do get symptoms–dry cough and ache in the throat, and fever–please call your doctor for advice.  If you don’t have a doctor, then it depends on the severity of the symptoms:  if mild, quarantine yourself, and call your local Urgent Care facility, and seek their advice; if severe–respiratory distress, high fever–go immediatelyto the nearest emergency room or call 9-1-1.  (I got this information from my partner, who is a Registered Nurse.)

(5)  Why all of this is important:  obviously, to try to protect yourself from getting infected.  But it has a social purpose as well:  if things get bad, our health system could get overwhelmed with infected people–and that would mean even more people could die.  By following these precautions, we will slow down the spread of infections, which gives our medical system the best chance to NOT get overwhelmed and to provide the best medical care to all; including for all those things that happen on a day-by-day basis.  It is in our individual and social best interests to try to avoid getting infected!

(6)  Again, there is no need to panic:  we need to stay clear ourselves, and seek the best, most accurate information possible.  Please do not pass on false information:  if in doubt, do without!  From what I can tell, we will continue to get food into our grocery stores, so it will continue to be available, although there might be restrictions on the numbers of a particular item you can purchase at any one time.  And if people take precautions such as being suggested herein, our health care system is likely to hold.

(7)  Where things are dicey:  people are being thrown out of jobs, having their hours reduced, getting sick, etc., and this is a real threat to people’s well-being.  This can result in people not having money to pay their bills, buy food, etc.  You want to reduce your spending as much as possible, so you have maximum financial flexibility so as to get through this crisis; in any case, I’d pay the minimum due on credit cards, etc., until this crisis recedes (which could be another 2-6 months).

If you want to do something to help all of your neighbors, friends and families, please call your local officials–in national, state, county or city governments (you can Google for phone numbers, e-mail addresses)–and demand that they provide immediate financial aid to help overcome layoffs, poverty, sick days and any other kind of economic distress.  While this might seem “extreme” to some of you, the fact is that this is not a time to worry about federal debt or any other objection:  our neighbors, friends and family are too important not to demand this help.  The State of Indiana has something like $2 BILLION in its “rainy day” fund–and it’s raining hard right now:  use it.  And the US Government has given Wall Street and the major corporations something like $1.5 TRILLION to get through it.  If they can afford that, then they can surely afford to take care of our people, regardless of what they say!

And, finally, for now:

(8)  This is, and probably will be for a while, emotionally taxing.  If you’re angry, go out and curse at the moon–and call whoever all the names you want!  If your sad or scared, cry and get it out–don’t hold it in; getting it out will make you feel better.  We ARE going to get through this, and we’ll do it better if we take care of each other as much as possible.  The more we act in solidarity with each other, the sooner we’ll get through this, and with least bad impact.

We’ll have to discuss afterwards how we need to change our society so to minimize future threats to our collective well-being.  But for now, we need to take care of ourselves and those around us.

I’ll be in touch again soon.  Take care, think clearly, and stay safe!

 Kim Scipes, Ph.D.

Professor of Sociology

Purdue University Northwest

Westville and Hammond, Indiana




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