Coronavirus outbreak impacts everyday life

Joseph Schulz, Managing Editor

When Peter Lenz moved to South Korea in August 2019 to teach English at an elementary school in the city of Daegu, he never imagined that he’d find himself at the center of a global epidemic.

South Korea has had more than 7,300 confirmed coronavirus infections, killing more than 50 people, according to CNN.

Lenz said the mood was eerie when the outbreak first happened, describing Daegu as a ghost town.

But recently the mood has become more precautionary as the city begins to recover from the virus, Lenz added.

“People are still wearing masks, still avoiding [going] outside as much as they can, but it’s not to the extent that it was when it first happened,” he said.

Lenz isn’t worried about his personal safety, but he is worried about contracting the virus and transmitting it to his students.

“I’m obviously concerned enough to not want to personally get sick, but I’m much more concerned about if I would then spread it to more vulnerable populations,” he said.

Despite the outbreak, he plans to remain in South Korea for the time being. Lenz returned to school on Monday, but students will not be returning to class until March 23.

The virus has taken a tremendous toll on the local economy in Daegu, and street commerce has largely come to a halt, he added.

“Business owners are really taking a hit through a lot of this,” Lenz said.

Those in South Korea aren’t the only ones impacted by the high number of confirmed cases, as UWO’s study abroad programs have already been affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

Office of International Education Director Jennifer Graff said the university canceled a student exchange program to South Korea in response to the virus.

The university cancels trips when the CDC changes the travel health notice for an area to level three, which means the CDC warns against non-essential travel, Graff added.

Beyond stopping trips to South Korea, the UWO Office of International Education also returned a student to the U.S. after Italy’s travel health notice hit level 3, Graff said.

She added that the virus is also creating uncertainty for international students, who fear that if they go home they may not be allowed back into the country due to travel bans.

Jeffrey Delgadillo, an international student from Peru, is experiencing those fears first hand.

“I’m planning on doing my student visa renewal in August,” he said in an email. “I’m afraid that if I go back to Peru, they might be able to deny my entry back to the U.S.”

Because the virus originated in China, Graff added that people who look Asian have been targets of discrimination due to fears surrounding the coronavirus.

To overcome the uncertainty surrounding the virus, Graff believes the community at home and abroad needs to come together to support each other through this epidemic.

“We’re all connected on this and we can all support each other and hopefully cooperate and collaborate to protect each other as we go through this,” she said. “