From the closure of schools and businesses to empty aisles in supermarkets, the COVID-19 outbreak has seen its effects on multiple aspects of daily life. As of now, all schools in Lake and Porter counties have been closed temporarily. Gov. Eric Holcomb has also required all restaurants and bars to close within the state of Indiana. Carry-out and delivery services will still be available until the end of March. In the midst of it all, there are steps that everyone can take to avoid getting sick.
Nurse Carisa Oman says that one of the best preventative methods to avoid contracting any respiratory illness is to wash one’s hands.
“It is all about the hand washing. That is the number one defense our body has to not get these illnesses,” Oman said. “When you’re in close contact with somebody that is sick, that’s how you get these viruses. So everybody needs to be covering their cough and using hand sanitizer and washing their hands, blowing their nose in a tissue or sneezing in a tissue, throwing it away and then cleaning your hands.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 is thought to be spread primarily from person-to-person contact. Even if not visible, things like a cough or a sneeze could be a carrier for the disease.
“It’s a respiratory virus, so when you cough or sneeze, high amounts of respiratory secretions come out of you, whether you see them or not,” Oman said. “That’s how it’s going to get to you. It also could be on your hands because there are tons of germs on our hands all the time. So if somebody touches you or you touch a surface that maybe has it on there, then touch your eyes or your nose or your mouth, then it’s introduced into your body.”
In response to COVID-19 concerns, the Spain trip sponsored by the World Languages Department has been rescheduled to July. Students that had signed up and paid prior to this decision will not be able to receive a refund. The trip was planned through a travel company called EF, which extended its protection policy to include vouchers for students going to Spain.
“We are under the Peace of Mind program and that means that students who don’t travel can get vouchers, but they have to be used with the company, they are not refunds,” Spanish teacher Dana Zurbriggen said. “We felt that the most reasonable solution was to reschedule for this summer.”
By pushing the trip off, Zurbriggen hopes that there will be more time to assess the situation in Spain, as well as the safety of travel.
“At this point, we have no way of knowing what the world looks like in July,” Zurbriggen said. “I think the idea is we are going to wait and watch and see what happens. By putting it off, we bought ourselves time.”
The Spanish trip was not the only plan that was disrupted. Students that had been preparing to compete with various projects and present speeches at the Latin state convention are trying to make alternative plans with their work because of the event’s cancellation.
“I was really mad about it (the cancellation) at first, but once I heard that literally everything was getting shut down, I realized that it’s just for the best,” sophomore Luke Sherman said. “I didn’t make that many projects, but I was still pretty mad about it. They’re considering doing online submissions for projects and also if any of the projects you made this year are most likely going to be applicable for next year, that’s not a huge concern.”
All extracurriculars have been cancelled, including a German exchange program, all spring sports and the final weekend of the “Freaky Friday” musical. The cum laude banquet will be rescheduled for later in the year.
Outside of school, the outbreak has affected not only the number of customers at local businesses, but also made it harder for businesses to buy necessary supplies. Senior Natalia Terzioski describes the difficulties that her family’s skating rink business has faced due to COVID-19 concerns.
“With the skating rink, you need certain cleaning products because it’s a place where kids go and kids aren’t always the most sanitary, so you need a lot of disinfectants. Specifically we use Lysol for cleaning the skates. After everyone returns their skates we spray them down with Lysol,” Terzioski said. “Since the outbreak, there has been very minimal availability of it, and no one wants to sell it to us because when we buy it we’re going to buy it in bulk. The places that we usually buy it from, they are raising the prices on it and they are only selling us like one case at a time.”
Although Terzioski says that fear of COVID-19 has not deterred a large number of customers yet, she acknowledges that an outbreak closer to home may hurt her family’s business.
“Right now it is not that bad, but I think that eventually if (COVID-19) reaches, especially Lake County or Porter County, like Northwest Indiana, that will negatively affect (business),” Terzioski said. “We are not going to have as much business. I think eventually we might even have to either cut our hours or something because if no one is coming then there is no point in being open.”
Sophomore Noelani Perez, who works at Strack & Van Til, comments on her experience with customers panic buying at the store.
“I feel like people are in more of a panic and feel like something is going to happen, so everyone is coming in and buying everything off the shelves as much as they can,” Perez said. “All the water was gone and we had to keep restocking it because people were freaking out.”
Due to large demand, stores have been placing limits on the number of products that customers can buy. Perez says that Strack & Van Til has placed restrictions on sanitary products in particular.
“There is a limit (on sanitizers and cleaning products) because we don’t know when we are going to restock. People are freaking out and taking everything they can off the shelves. If someone takes all the hand sanitizer, there’s no hand sanitizer left,” Perez said. “I guess we’re trying to save what we have. We’re not trying to be greedy, but we’re trying to save it for more people.”
In addition to the effects that the outbreak has had upon businesses, it has also led to several schools and universities shutting down. All Indiana and Purdue University campuses have called off classes and activities for the rest of the year, in addition to other colleges in the state. In many cases, teachers and professors have switched to technological methods of teaching. IUPUI sophomore and CPHS graduate Josh Whitaker is seeing this happen at his school.
“I know that a lot of my professors are voice-overing the lectures and some of them actually have not taught online courses at all, so it will be a new transition for them,” Whitaker said. “It will be interesting to see how my labs and my other hands-on classes are switched to online.”
Due to the virus’ rapid speed, Whitaker feels as though it potentially made its way to his university. He feels that online classes help to alleviate the chance of multiplied infection.
“Considering that there was a case of coronavirus in Indy, yes I definitely think that there is the possibility that coronavirus did reach IUPUI,” Whitaker said. “So I definitely was on the more cautious side and prefer being at home rather than being exposed to thousands of other students.”
As the assistant professor and Public Relations teacher at IU Bloomington, Esi Thompson conducts research regarding health risk and crisis communication. She has found that the COVID-19 outbreak presents similarities to previous cases.
“Similar to the Ebola outbreak, when an outbreak starts elsewhere it is viewed as ‘affecting that other person in that other place.’ This sometimes leads to xenophobic attitudes which present new challenges. People also tend not to pay much attention or to learn about how to protect themselves,” Thompson said. “Then when the outbreak gets closer, there is panic and fear. When information dissemination and education is not well coordinated, then frustration increases and trust in authorities wanes. The lesson here is get the right information, from the right source, be calm and follow recommended actions. Of course, there are peculiar challenges that come with each outbreak but the trajectories look similar.”
When it comes to the development of public health concerns, Thompson believes that it is important for the general population to educate themselves through credible sources.
“I think people have to seek information from the right source. The World Health Organization, the CDC and your state health departments,” Thompson said. “Follow their updates and always check what others tell with these sources. Be aware that in situations of high public anxiety, rumors and misinformation also abound so be thoughtful about where you get information. It is always better to be safe than sorry.”