Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Ties to China cause worry within campus community

Thursday, February 27, 2020
From the far left, daughter Bonan Wang, wife, Yifeng Ren and daughter, Ellen Wang stand with Dr. Shaijum Wang for a family photo in this undated image.

Although the Coronavirus has not been reported in Southeast Missouri, there are still members of the Southeast community impacted by its effects.

Southeast professor of Engineering and Technology Shaojun Wang has close ties to many who have been affected in Wuhan, China, due to the outbreak.

On Jan. 21, Wang and his wife Yifeng Ren received news that back in Wuhan, Ren’s 70-year-old uncle has been diagnosed with the Coronavirus.

Wang said this was difficult news to receive because the sickness had killed others. They were so far away from him, fearing for his health.Despite his diagnosis, Ren’s uncle survived.

He was born in Wuxi, China, but spent 17 years of his young adult life in Wuhan before he immigrated to the United States.

Through a joint program between Southeast and Wuhan Textile University, Wang and his wife taught engineering courses every summer in Wuhan from 2010 to 2016 in Wuhan.

Since then, Wang said they have gone back to Wuhan every summer to visit, however, he said this upcoming summer has him worried because of the Coronavirus.

To help keep in contact with their loved ones, Wang and his family discovered WeChat, an app that allows messaging, calling and video chats with others across the world.

Wang said he also learned of one of his former classmates who had been diagnosed with Coronavirus .

“I think this epidemic is so sudden and so big, people get panicked,” Wang said. “At the beginning of the quarantine, it was chaos.”

Wang said because this outbreak happened so quickly, China has not had enough medical professionals or facilities to combat the disease effectively.

Those with mild cases cannot get into the hospitals and must stay home-- which to Wang, makes the quarantine insufficient.

According to a report by NPR in Wuhan, those affected by the Coronavirus have had to face long waits and lines to be seen by doctors. Temporary medical centers and “makeshift isolation wards” are being used to try and fix the overcrowding issue.

“Hospitals are so full that without an official coronavirus diagnosis, Wuhan residents say they cannot get care, leaving those with potentially fatal cases of seasonal pneumonia and influenza untreated,”NPR’s Beijing correspondents Emily Feng and Amy Cheng reported Feb. 5.

As of Feb. 24, there have been no confirmed cases in Missouri, but there are still individuals on campus who have been impacted by the illness.

Executive Director of International Education and Services, Kevin Timlin said there has been a lot of work behind-the-scenes to ensure the healthiness of students at Southeast. He said International services contacted all international students to offer help and guidance during this time.

“We went through all of our records to find out how many of our students may be from the Hubei province where Wuhan is,” Timlin said. “We only have one student we are aware of who has a permanent address in Hubei, and we know that person worked with us all break and did not go home over break.”

Timlin said, unfortunately, there is a student who went home to the Shandong Province over winter break, around 10 hours from the Hubei province, who was not able to return to Southeast for the semester due to a travel ban out of China.

When it comes to situations like this one, Timlin said there has to be consistent work being done to keep everyone healthy and feeling supported.

“We can’t just leave it at that. I think it's just going to take an active part from a lot of different people of keeping our eyes and ears open — making sure students know that we are a resource for them,” Timlin said.

International Students coping with the effects of the Coronavirus can receive additional support by contacting Kevin Timlin at