Coronavirus affecting life at UA

With COVID-19 on the rise, University of Alabama is in the process of dealing with the situation.

By Holly Barnett and Cassie Kuhn
News Reporters

Coronavirus, or COVID-19, is on the rise in the United States, and employers and organizations are all handling the outbreak differently. While it’s not yet known how bad the virus will get, certain groups are more likely to be affected than others.

Specifically, older adults and individuals with chronic conditions like lung disease and diabetes are at higher risk of becoming severely ill if coronavirus is contracted. 

Shelby Bigham is a University of Alabama student who has multiple chronic illnesses. She said she isn’t worried about the virus yet, but will be if it spreads to Alabama.

“I do see this virus differently because my immune system is compromised. If I were to get it, I would have a greater chance of having more serious symptoms or possibly even dying from it than most people would,” Bigham said. “I think people should keep in mind that even if they aren’t worried about it, other people with compromised immune systems or illnesses are worried, and with good reason.”

Another factor to consider when assessing the risk of COVID-19 is school attendance policies and employers’ sick day policies. Many have expressed concern over difficulty that they will face in securing time off of work, especially for people who work in food service and similar industries.

Twitter user @Marshalllaw1906 wrote,  “It’s going to be interesting to see how a country where a bulk of the service sector does not have access to paid sick leave and GoFundMe doubles as a major health insurer deals with a global contagion pandemic like the Coronavirus.”

For those who can’t miss more than a day or two of work without being at risk of losing their jobs, staying home during the outbreak might mean there is no money for rent or groceries.

 For those who work gig economy jobs, like Lyft drivers and DoorDash employees, if you don’t put yourself on the schedule, you won’t get paid. 

Carrie Ruhl works as a Shipt employee in the Denver, Colorado area, whereas as of Monday there were 12 known cases of COVID-19 statewide. She said certain items like toilet paper and cleaning products are in low stock in some grocery stores, and she is wiping down grocery carts more frequently when she’s working.

Although typically Shipt shoppers hand-deliver groceries to members, Ruhl said shoppers are allowed to drop groceries at the door if they are concerned about coronavirus.

“Shipt has informed us we can use our best judgment on whether or not to drop off at the door. I haven’t done that unless my customer asks me to,” Ruhl said.

Mariah Ziccardi is a University of Alabama graduate who currently works in event sales. She said many people have canceled their events due to concerns over traveling amidst the outbreak.

“The weird part was, it happened totally overnight like in an instant. It wasn’t a few canceling here and there, it was the day after our government declared a state of emergency,” Ziccardi said. “It definitely is clearly affecting the tourism industry.”

Although the exact role that hourly and gig economy work will play in the spread of COVID-19 is not yet known, this will likely be a key issue in the coming months.

With Spring Break ahead for the University of Alabama, the risk of getting a positive case is at large.

Over 100 students were asked if they were worried about going on Spring Break because of COVID-19. 77% said no and plan to continue their vacation plans. 

73% polled that all the attention is an overreaction.

The University of Alabama sent an email on Tuesday advising against non-essential travel and requiring those who travel to a CDC COVID-19 level 2 or 3 country (as well as those who have had close contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19).

 It is best to contact the Alabama Department of Public Health, stay away from campus and large gathering places, and self-monitor for 14 days after leaving the affected area. 

On a large scale, the COVID-19 outbreak prompts important questions about the nature of our economy, the way service sector employees are treated, and our country’s ability to effectively manage a potential pandemic. 

In the meantime, the best thing individuals can do is avoid unnecessary travel and contact with others, stay calm and aware about the ongoing situation, and most importantly: wash your hands.