The Chinese Lunar New Year is the biggest holiday for people of Chinese heritage. Unfortunately, this Lunar New Year celebration has been ruined by the outbreak of the Wuhan Virus, better known as the Coronavirus.
University of Memphis journalism professor Dr. Jin Yang said she believes this year’s Lunar New Year will be remembered for the Wuhan Virus outbreak.
“The Chinese New Year Festival has been held for more than 15 years,” Yang said. “This is the first time the event is canceled.”
China has reported that the Wuhan Virus has resulted in 82 deaths so far. In Beijing, the Chinese Communist Party has quarantined over 50 million people. The mayor of Wuhan, Zhou Xianwang, said that 5 million people left the city before the quarantine was put in place in a press conference Monday.
So far, in the United States, there have only been five cases of the virus, and in all five cases, the infected person had recently traveled to Wuhan, China. There was a scare Friday of the virus being contracted by a Tennessee Tech student, but his results were negative.
This past Saturday, the UofM was supposed to host a Lunar Year Festival in the Michael D. Rose Theatre on campus, but canceled the event out of concern of potentially spreading the virus.
However, Dr. Yang said that the UofM had already decided to cancel the event before the news broke about the Tennessee Tech student that was being tested for the virus.
“The Board of The Greater Memphis United Chinese Organization, the leader and organizer of the Chinese Lunar New Year Festival, canceled the event before the news broke Friday,” Yang said. “I learned of the cancellation Thursday evening.”
Yang, along with UofM visual media professor Dr. Ruoxu Wang, sent an email Saturday to the Chair of the Department of Journalism and Strategic Media, Dr. David Arant. The email called for the University Leader to send a message to the entire campus community about the current health status quo in China and the United States.
The professors asked the UofM to urge those who have traveled to China recently to stay home for 14 days before coming back to work or school. They also said to report to health care providers to be cautious.
“It is never too much to ask to stay cautious because the Wuhan Virus has an incubation period of 14 days,” Yang said.
Kelly Leung is a hairstylist in Memphis that was born and raised in China, and she still has family and friends that live there. Leung's son and daughter were supposed to perform in Saturday's festival.
“The virus outbreak has ruined our biggest holiday celebration, The Chinese Lunar New Year,” Leung said. “I’m sad for my children and nieces because they put in a lot of hard work and time to perform their best at the event the University was going to hold before its cancellation.”
Leung also said she is very concerned about her grandfather in China because he lives in an assisted living facility that has prohibited any visitors for the time being. She said she hates the thought of him having to spend the biggest Chinese holiday of the year alone, especially because it is a holiday that centers around family.
UofM student Carrie Keobounruang, a second-year pharmacy student at The University of Tennessee Health Center in Memphis, has been following the Wuhan virus on the news.
Keobounruang said her professors are not worried about the Wuhan/Corona Virus affecting Memphis or the Mid-South area.
“We actually had a conversation in class about it, and the main concern that my professor had was to make sure the students are vaccinated and have gotten their flu shots,” Keobounruang said. “There is no specific vaccination because it is something new. It could be a different strain from what is already in our flu vaccine.”
Keobounruang said her professors told the class that the Wuhan/Corona Virus is a severe virus, especially for those who have a compromised immune system, but that it is like every other virus.
“The virus could be spread from human to human through sneezing and close contact with someone infected by the virus. I believe flu-like symptoms are something to keep a lookout for,” Keobounruang said. “Keep your distance from people who are sick, and always try to keep your hands washed, especially if you work with the public.”