Hate and Coronavirus Spread Together

My Covid Story:

In February of 2020, the first signs of coronavirus sounded an alarm to epidemiologists in the United States (U.S.) as they watched China go into full lockdown. By March 2020, the pandemic caused by COVID-19 began to proliferate throughout the U.S. Sadly, along with the spread of the virus came racism directed at Asian Americans. Sinophobia, the dislike or fear towards Chinese people and Chinese culture, heightened as rates of coronavirus began to rise.

Life under quarantine is hard for everyone; but the widespread escalation of Anti-Asian harassment and assault have caused undue fear and anxiety for this community. Reports reveal that incidents occur throughout the country and are not confined to specific locations. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and other organizations have been tracking the frequency and details of related occurrences from San Luis Obispo, California to Queens, New York with more than 1,500 reported cases since the start of the pandemic. Keep in mind that these represent only the incidents that are documented, with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of reports not recorded. 

Aileen, an Asian American who lives in Manhattan, experienced racism related to COVID-19 firsthand. One early afternoon, before New York City went into full lockdown, Aileen was hopping onto the subway, heading for an appointment. She recalls that the train was not very crowded; as she got on, a white woman shoved her out of the way, gave her a dirty look and covered her face to signal fear of infection. Aileen, who has been healthy throughout the entire pandemic, was shocked. How could someone treat her like less of a person because of her race? Unfortunately, Aileen’s story is not uncommon. Asian business owners have reported graffiti and hate speech along with vandalism. Slurs such as “Go back to China, you brought the virus here” or “Stop eating bats” have been hurled at countless Asian-Americans. 

A Chinese employee of Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), who helps provide services to low income families with eligibility for the federally funded nutrition support program, recalls her similar pandemic story. In March, this person, who prefers to not be identified, fell ill and thought it was related to allergies. She was sick enough, however, to take time off from work; her children — two in high school and the one in college — took care of her for a week, as she recovered from her symptoms of dry cough, loss of taste and smell (very specific for COVID-19), and low-grade fever. She was worried about her job, but received paid time off and felt grateful since many others have not been as lucky. More than a month after she had properly quarantined and fully recovered,  she was in the grocery store buying flour for her daughter who wanted to bake.

I never thought I would be on the receiving end of racism

she said. But while she was waiting to purchase the flour, she heard a woman behind her say “You brought the coronavirus to New York, you are so disgusting for eating bats!” Stunned and deeply insulted, she did not reply nor did she report the incident. The remarks were painful; she froze in disbelief, wondering how people could be so cruel and uninformed.

Damage from, Causes of, and Response to Sinophobia

During a time where mental health is challenged due to isolation, losing those we love, and facing financial and physical hardships, anti-Asian violence and harassment is emotionally draining and hurtful with serious psychological and physical consequences. Attacks involve verbal abuse, offensive graffiti, spitting, coughing or attacking. There is no evidence of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders having higher infection rates from COVID-19 than other ethnic groups; in fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have the second lowest infection rate of all ethnicities in America.

Factors supporting and spreading racist rhetoric include certain news channels and government officials. These constitute large platforms that deliberately scapegoat Asian Americans by using racist terms like “the Chinese Virus” or “Wuhan Flu.” Speaking with those who have been directly affected by discrimination, they report how disheartening and distressing it is when one hears prominent spokespeople, especially POTUS or surrogates from the administration, use racist terms  which, at the very least, excuse racism towards Asian Americans and, at worst, encourage it. 

In response to anti-Asian violence and harassment, the hashtag #IAmNotAVirus has been created.

This represents a movement among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to share their stories and allow their voices to be heard.

Taking active steps against hate and discrimination towards Asian Americans requires vigilance about what businesses you support and holding accountable those who incite racism and use “irresponsible rhetoric.” Facebook has recently come under fire for both disregarding voter suppression and not applying their moderation policies to hate speech and racism on their website. A coalition of anti-hate organizations have collaborated to create an initiative called #StopHateForProfit designed to implore Facebook to change their policies. Four hundred large and small companies, as of this writing, are collectively boycotting advertisement on the social media platform. 

Along with not supporting companies and businesses that encourage, support, or allow racism, speaking out against racism must become common practice. Asian Americans Advancing Justice created a bystander intervention training that can educate people on what to do while witnessing racism. 

There is no doubt that COVID-19 has profoundly impacted everyone’s life. It is imperative to remember that we are all human and should treat one another with respect and equity, no matter your race, ethnicity, age, gender or economic position.

Reported & Written by Katarina Ho; Edited by Dr. Jacki Hart

Recovery Requires Justice; It’s a Matter of Public Health

A Reflection By: Dr. Jacki Hart
“We’ve been risking our lives for freedom since you brought us here.”

– Eddie Gaulet, PhD, Princeton University, Chair of the Department of African American Studies

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

– Archbishop Desmond Tutu, OMSG, CH, GCStJ, Theologian and Human Rights Advocate, Noble Peace Prize recipient

This has been a heart wrenching week. As the worldwide death toll from coronavirus soars close to 400,000, with more than one-third occurring in the United States, global attention has turned to a cancerous pandemic that has infested our country for centuries. In the midst of the devastating reality of health, economic, and social inequities highlighted by the viral pandemic, we’ve all witnessed barbaric, fatal outcomes fueled by racism in the last several weeks. 

The systemic oppression is not new. George Floyd’s words hark back to an equally horrific, racist act a few years ago when Eric Garner also pleaded with police officers perpetrating the crime. “I cannot breathe,” each man cried while being stripped of his life.

George and Eric should still be alive. As should Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and countless other black people who have been killed because of racism, racial injustice, and inexplicable indignities.   

We are facing two public health crises: an acute one from a novel virus that has required intense intervention to stop its spread. And a deep-rooted, metastatic disease that has existed since our country’s inception. 

The death of George Floyd and all that it represents has taken precedence right now over the coronavirus pandemic. One is chronic and ubiquitous. The other is an acute infection that will last a long time with many terrible outcomes and possible long-term sequela. But vaccines and treatment for coronavirus will ultimately be discovered, tested, and distributed. In cities throughout the world, hundreds-of-thousands have decided that the potential risk of contracting the virus in large crowds is necessary in order to disrupt the noxious pandemic of systemic racism and police brutality. 


When we launched this website, we wanted to provide a sense of hope and possibility. We wanted to share stories of real people experiencing real recovery from COVID-19. Through their stories, we want to help each of you see yourselves in everyday people – experiences that you, too, may have had related to the virus and other experiences that may come as a surprise. However, in the wake of George Floyd’s death with the universally heightened grief, pain, anger, and outrage, in the setting of layers of countless societal ills already exposed by the virus, how do we have a sense of hope right now? How do we foster optimism? 

One glimmer that I try to hang on to is that, given the despicable ways in which the undeniable toxicity of police brutality against black Americans has triggered collective rage this time, perhaps all of us will finally commit to and work for cultural change. That may sound naive, since generations of equally deplorable acts should have evoked this level of widespread outrage, no matter your race. But others, too, are noticing a shift. In a New York Times article covering the recent protests, a participant named Sharhonda Bossier was quoted as saying, “What feels different about right now is people are angry for themselves in a way that we did not see outside of black people four years ago.” 

Perhaps the backdrop of the infectious pandemic is contributing to a palpable change? The virus itself unearthed the glaring disparities in our health, economic, and social structures. Maybe everyone is finally recognizing that the status quo is wrong, harmful, and deadly. Even before the murder of George Floyd, COVID-19 rendered it crystal clear that once the cure and safe, preventative immunization are established, complacently slipping back to work and life as “usual” should not be an option. We must revamp and revitalize, not return and restore. The demonstrations across the nation and the globe emphasize that given the combination of simultaneous pandemics – one chronic and cancerous, the other acute and infectious – recovery should mean change, righting the wrongs of every type of injustice. 

If we, the human race of researchers, scientists, healthcare workers, and system organizers, are smart and resourceful enough to develop a vaccine at rapid speed, and distribute it to everyone, then we can also design a country and a world that live up to our ideals of equity, justice, and fairness. We can, and we should, address every single indignity and indiscretion head on, not only those caught on camera.  

The time, perhaps the reckoning, has come. Not one of us has the luxury to deny our roles in this extremely complicated system and history that is founded on inhumane oppression.

A few pieces this week that have touched me deeply: (1) Trevor Noah’s monologue. (2) A poem shared with me by a newfound friend originally from Chile. (3) A slam poem delivered by Playon Patrick. 


There is a tremendous amount to be done and it can feel overwhelming to know where to begin, especially while the acute viral pandemic is a current reality. A few concrete steps to consider, particularly if you are, understandably, worried and uncomfortable about protesting during the COVID-19 pandemic but you still want to exercise your support and make strides toward change:

Frontline “Heroes” Don’t Always Want to Be Heroes

Nick, a nurse (RN) on a general medical ward of an urban academic teaching hospital in a Northeast city, takes much of the experience of treating COVID-19 patients in stride. His refreshing approach is inspiring and reinforces that nurses are the heart and backbone of our healthcare institutions, under both normal and pandemic circumstances.

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