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Craig Stephens speaks at a Coronavirus panel

Craig Stephens speaks at a Coronavirus panel

Stay Safe, Stay Together

Faculty experts host a panel discussion on the best ways to stay mentally and physically healthy during the Coronavirus outbreak.

Faculty experts host a panel discussion on the best ways to stay mentally and physically healthy during the Coronavirus outbreak. 

Professor Craig Stephens and Assistant Professor Kat Saxton had some familiar but sound advice for Santa Clara students during a COVID-19 (Coronavirus) panel on campus last week: Stay home if you’re sick, don’t touch your face, don’t wear a mask, and wash your hands for two rounds of “Happy Birthday.”

Assistant professor in Counseling Psychology Sherry Wang added one more suggestion: Keep your empathy and humanity during this crisis.

Though stories in the media have caused panic, the SCU experts offered a more realistic interpretation of what the virus looks like and what it will do, from three different perspectives: biological, epidemiological, and psychological.

At the panel, which was attended by several dozen students from public health and other majors, Saxton chronicled the typical cycle of a pandemic, explaining that when an outbreak first occurs, news outlets primarily focus on the most severe cases, which can lead to a panic that outsizes the actual threat. As a result, she said, staying calm and informed is important.

Stephens talked to students about typical symptoms, both to alleviate some fears while teaching what to look for if students are not feeling well.

The biology professor explained that the virus usually starts out like a cold and in more serious cases, could cause pneumonia, often characterized by a fever, dry cough, and shortness of breath. But he said these more severe instances were more likely to affect much older individuals who already have underlying health conditions.

The most important thing, Stephens stressed, is to be careful and patient, acknowledging it will probably take about a year and a half, at the earliest, for an effective and safe vaccine to be developed.

“This virus is only three months old. We are not working with much information,” he said. “The real world isn’t Hollywood.”

While Stephens and Saxton focused on physical health, Wang concentrated on the community impact of the virus. She asked students to hold others accountable for their health, but to do so in a compassionate way. Rather than “calling out” people for unhealthy practices, call them “in,” she suggested.

Wang explained that when we use care and avoid shaming people, we’re more successful than when we verbally attack or embarrass them.

That sense of care should also extend to avoiding racism that has surfaced with the rise of COVID-19, Wang said. Stigmatizing Chinese or Asian people as connected to—or the cause of—the virus can be very dangerous, in addition to being simply offensive.

“We need to quarantine a disease, not a people,” she said.

To close, each panelist reassured the crowd that Santa Clara has a protocol in place, in the event that an outbreak occurs close to home. The university has been in contact with the County Public Health Department at least once a day.

For more information, click here for Santa Clara University’s health advisory COVID-19 alerts.


Features, cov-3

Professor Craig Stephens talks at the Coronavirus panel March 2. Photo by Umbher Kooner