President Schuster responds to Coronavirus outbreak


President Schuster responded to the Coronavirus outbreak on Jan. 31. In his statement, Schuster touched on Webster’s MBA program in China and reminded students of measures they can take to prevent falling ill. 

On Jan. 31, Webster University President Julian Schuster released a statement in response to the worldwide news coverage of the coronavirus outbreak in China, which recently has spread to other countries— including the U.S.
Schuster reminded the community that the risk of infection outside of China is low.

“This is a good time to remind all members of the Webster community, regardless of location, to take precautions to prevent the spread of respiratory infections, including influenza (flu), which is now widespread in the U.S., and other infectious diseases.”

Although Schuster mentioned that there are currently no Webster students or faculty abroad on programs in China, he reassured the community that Webster’s MBA program in China, which is offered at two partner universities, will have a delayed term start as per Chinese regulations.

“We are in continuous contact with our staff in China, keeping abreast of updates as they are available,” Schuster said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared coronavirus a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, which catalyzed an increased international panic surrounding the virus.

In Webster Groves and surrounding areas, Target, Walmart and Schnucks recently ran out of stock of anti-germ masks, and several travelers in the St. Louis airport were spotted wearing masks or gloves— a habit that was previously uncommon in the West.

Internationally, the Chinese diaspora and other perceived East Asians are increasingly concerned about racism and xenophobia because of coronavirus fears. There have been reports of increased hostility toward people perceived as Chinese on university campuses around the world, including U.S. campuses such as University of California, Berkeley. Berkeley released an infographic on its public social media pages listing xenophobia as a normal reaction to the coronavirus outbreak.

Webster University student Kyoko Sakai, who comes from Japan, said that she fortunately has not personally experienced discrimination for being East Asian, but that Berkeley’s public statement about the coronavirus was disturbing to her.

“I didn’t feel discrimination from others on campus here, so that post was kind of the first time I witnessed the discrimination,” Sakai said.

She also noted that she is being cautious of her behavior around the Chinese community.

“I went to a Chinese festival in St. Louis this week. I wasn’t carrying a bag or a jacket, so I had my belongings in my hands, which included hand sanitizer. I didn’t mean to hurt anyone because everything was just a coincidence, but a Chinese girl looked offended,” Kakai said. “I understand my act could be seen as discrimination against Chinese people, and upon reflecting on what I did, I feel upset.”

The coronavirus has reportedly infected around 17,348 people worldwide, and was fatal to at least 362. All but one of these deaths were reported within China. In the United States, as Schuster stated, the risk is significantly lower with only 11 cases confirmed. Despite the relatively low risk, Schuster reminded students to take the following precautionary measures:

  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use a sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid sharing personal items such as water bottles.
  • Use alcohol-based wipes to clean your workstation or other areas that you frequently touch.
  • If you feel ill, stay home and rest. Visit a doctor immediately if symptoms worsen.
  • Ask your doctor about getting a flu shot.


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Yasmin Mehboob-Khan
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