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SU comments on the portrayal of the coronavirus in the media

Whether you’ve been watching the news or scrolling through social media, you’ll notice the coronavirus is hitting the media hard.

These past couple of weeks have been full of uncertainty, leaving many with unanswered questions for both students and staff.

Salisbury University students and staff have shared their thoughts, opinions and concerns regarding the coronavirus and its relationship with current media.

Freshman nursing major Courtney Harris, expressed her concerns surrounding the virus. Specifically around the idea of the disease spreading through acts of carelessness.

“People are still allowed to travel in and out of the country,” Harris stated.

Harris elaborated, stating that if other countries have quarantined themselves, and that has slowed progression of the virus, then shouldn’t the U.S. be doing the same?

It seems that now a travel ban has been instated in the U.S, so this is no longer an issue.

But, it does leave many to question if such a ban should have been done sooner.

Additionally, Harris discussed her concern regarding SU's students, staff and family members that are at an increased risk of catching the virus.

Although valid and concerning, Isabel Hechinger, a junior majoring in global health, trusts in Salisbury University’s future decisions — whatever they may be.

Hechinger feels that her major has allowed her to view the coronavirus in an alternative perspective from some of her peers.

“People should be getting information from the CDC or medical resources instead of the news," Hechinger said.

Hechinger wants to remind students that the news is not the same as direct messages from doctors, and people should consider that when viewing current media.

Professor Vinita Agarwal, who specializes in health crisis communication, also expressed the importance of adhering to reliable, trustworthy sources when seeking information.

"Having clear guidance and information on scientifically proven actions that can help manage the threat can both engender a sense of control and cultivate safe and healthy behaviors," Agarwal said.

Agarwal stated that unknown answers are likely to cause people to believe in sources that are not reliable, which in turn brings about a state of mass hysteria.

To counter mass hysteria, Agarwal stressed that SU community members should pay attention to information that is available, particularly the steps, precautions and actions advised by trustworthy organizations

Agarwal recommends the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization as sources community members can trust.

Although mass hysteria is currently being attributed to the media, Agarwal recognizes the criticism the media has faced within the coronavirus epidemic.

“The challenge for the media was, and is, to communicate the importance of the threat in a way that brings out the urgency of the issue and its potential impact while not causing a feeling of being out of control against an unseen enemy," she stated.

To improve the current state of the media, Agarwal suggested providing information that is applicable to various perspectives, as the virus has impacted different people in different ways.

By representing different groups and what this virus means to these groups, a better sense of understanding and informality can be established by the media.

For example, Agarwal feels that there is a definite need to better address the younger vulnerable populations.

“There is a small but significant audience of younger people who are vulnerable because of underlying health conditions," she said. "The media in relation to younger vulnerable populations certainly deserves greater attention to raise awareness of the need of this group of people and to provide greater resources for their care."

This is one way the media could better portray the virus, addressing populations that may be impacted differently in comparison with other groups and populations.

“We are human beings, we are a society, a civilization, a community, a collective going through a vital experience, and we will prevail, but it is how we prevail that will ultimately matter most to the trajectory of human spirit and history," Agarwal stated.



Staff writer

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