Lunar New Year at UNR with a Caucus Flavor and Fears of Coronavirus

On January 30, The Center: Every Student, Every Story hosted this year’s Lunar New Year celebration, the Chinese festival that celebrates the beginning of a new year on the traditional Chinese calendar, at the Joe Crowley Student Union. Henry Stone and Wenei Philimon report.

The celebration consisted of 80 students, food, music, and a lion dance to bring about good luck. Photo by Wenei Philimon.

Year of the Rat with a Lion Dance

The celebration for this year of the rat kicked off with speeches, followed by a lion dance, which involved feeding the lion money-filled red envelopes for good luck.

For Erin Lucas, a member of the Kappa Phi Lambda sorority, one of the Asian organizations that helped put together this event, this was a first.

“We didn’t use to have a lot of Asian Pacific Islander representation on campus until more recent years,” Lucas said. “It’s been a big deal to show support for these kinds of events on campus so that they feel like they can thrive and people who host them can continue to host them. I’m Filipino and we don’t actually celebrate Lunar New Year, but because it’s heavily celebrated by other Asian cultures, I just wanted to get involved. I learned more about it — more about the differences like the different animal years.”

Other organizers included the Asian Pacific-Islander Student Organization (APISO) and the Asian Community Development Council (ACDC), which was also keen to register would be voters ahead of the upcoming 2020 election cycle. Asian Americans generally have a low voter turnout rate, including among college students.

Students waited in line for food, which included specialty duck. Photo by Wenei Philimon.

Fears of Coronavirus and Weird Looks from Others

As the Lunar New Year celebration took place this past week, China was at the epicenter of the fast-spreading coronavirus epidemic. There have been cases confirmed by the World Health Organization in more than twenty countries including the United States, Australia, Cambodia, Canada, France, Finland, Germany, India, Japan and Italy, with over 250 deadly cases in China.

Scientists have stated the virus may have come from animals and its outbreak may have come from live animals or a seafood wholesale market in Wuhan, China, the capital of the central Hubei province.

Iris Kim, the treasurer of the Korean American Student Association, said even though she hasn’t been directly affected by the virus, her family members have noted a difference in treatment from other people due to their Asian features.

“My parents have faced some eyes,” Kim said. “Because my parents do look Chinese, even though they are Korean, a lot of people can’t tell the difference. So, my parents have stated that people are looking at them, kind of consciously. Like if they sneeze or cough, like people around them would kind of get startled. So, they were really surprised because they didn’t expect it to be that way.”

Lucas stated that it’s an unfortunate situation, but didn’t know that the Philippines had actually confirmed its first case of the coronavirus on Thursday, the day of the celebration at UNR.

“I think it’s sad, I think that it’s something that should have been helped way earlier than it was,” Lucas said. “ My thoughts on it are, ‘Okay! It’s just the flu season in general, so get your shot.’ I have hand sanitizer on me — the basic stuff. It’s not something I’m necessarily extremely worried about whereas of right now, it is an unfortunate situation.”

Natalie Pen, a student at the University of Nevada, Reno, and the program assistant of ACDC, said that she has friends who are affected by the outbreak of the coronavirus in California.

“I didn’t think that it would affect such a large group of people in such a short amount of time,” Pen said. “I was actually in the Northern California area when they said that there were nine cases at the time. I was like, ‘Oh my god, that’s crazy.’ I just came from California.”

University officials also attended the celebration, and listened to speeches. Photo by Henry Stone.

The University’s Messaging

Students or faculty who traveled to China recently are being encouraged to self-monitor for possible symptoms of the virus.

“Since this is a virus that has not previously been seen in humans, the situation with regard to 2019-nCoV is still unclear,” Cheryl Hug-English, the medical director of the Student Health Center wrote in an email. “While severe illness, including a number of deaths, have been reported in China, other patients have had a much milder illness.”

On Friday, the Center for Disease Control said there were six confirmed cases of coronavirus among California, Arizona, Washington, and Illinois residents. Across 26 states, there were 114 patients currently under investigation that tested negative for the virus and 121 who were still awaiting test results.

Reporting by Henry Stone and Wenei Philimon for the Reynolds Sandbox

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