On the heels of Toronto’s first confirmed case of the coronavirus on January 25, the University of Toronto released a statement on its preparedness and procedures for ensuring student safety on January 26. Since then, health officials have confirmed a second presumptive case in Toronto, with 19 others in the province under investigation. Officials in British Columbia have also confirmed one case in the province today.
Ontario public health officials have cautioned against misinformation after announcing the first presumptive case in Canada. The university echoed these statements by health officials, nothing that the risk of contracting the virus still remains low.
In its message, U of T seeks to quell student concerns regarding the virus, which originated in Wuhan, China. They wrote that “We are monitoring the situation carefully, and are in communication with faculty experts who work in our affiliated teaching hospitals and in public health.” However, they do warn that students who have both travelled abroad recently, and are experiencing “fever, cough, and difficulty breathing,” should avoid contact with others and seek medical attention.
Earlier today, the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) released a membership advisory calling on students to “debunk myths rooted in anti-asian racism” when it comes to the coronavirus. They disclosed that a number of Chinese and East Asian UTM students have come forward after facing racist and xenophobic comments connected to the racialization of this virus. These comments have reportedly made assumptions about hygienic practices in China and East Asia, and have ridiculed these countries and their cultural foods.
“While fear is an understandable and common reaction to a viral outbreak, it is important to remember that it is not an excuse for xenophobia and racism,” the UTMSU said in its statement.
The first confirmed case of the coronavirus in Canada originated in the U of T affiliated medical facility, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. Sunnybrook remains open and hospital officials have assured the public that all patients and those visiting the hospital are safe. The Toronto man who contracted the virus had recently returned from Wuhan. He has been quarantined and is receiving active medical care. His wife, who travelled with him, is presumed to also have the virus.
An online petition is being circulated, and has garnered over 29,000 signatures as of publication time. It calls on all Ontario schools and campuses to close in fear that the coronavirus will spread.