The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak has sparked various reactions from different populations across the globe. With the sudden surge of cases worldwide and the spread of the virus to other countries, racism, and discrimination against Chinese American people has increased.
Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 : This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (round gold objects) emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. SARS-CoV-2, also known as 2019-nCoV, is the virus that causes COVID-19. The virus shown was isolated from a patient in the U.S. Credit: NIAID-RML
At the beginning of the outbreak, which started in Wuhan City in Hubei Province, China, many people speculated on the source of the epidemic. They blamed the country for its wildlife trade that has been believed to be the source of the deadly outbreak. However, when the virus started to penetrate other countries, with South Korea, Italy, and Iran as hotspots, incidents of discrimination against Chinese people were widely reported.
A team of researchers at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), and University of Maryland College Park (UMD) will conduct a study to explore the intensified discrimination that Chinese-American families and residents face in the United States amid the current COVID-19 outbreak. The study, funded by the Rapid Response Research (RAPID) grant from the National Science Foundation, will explore the issue.
>The negative impact of infectious diseases on psychological health is understudied but highly significant, especially for minority groups linked to the disease through social group categorization," PI Charissa Cheah, professor of psychology at UMBC, said in a statement.
"The results from this study will significantly contribute to our understanding of risk and resilience processes among parents and children under conditions of acute but prolonged health and social threat," she added.
Experiences of families
The study will focus on the experiences of Chinese-American families to racial and ethnic discrimination. The researchers will use data based on social climate, public opinion, and, most importantly, the experiences these families encounter tied to the outbreak.
The team wants to know what is happening now, shedding light on how discrimination impacts individuals, families, and communities. This way, other studies can use this as a basis for future endeavors and see the effects of discrimination in the long-term.
The researchers plan to conduct the study by using focus groups and surveys, to unveil and better understand how the different forms of racial discrimination linked to the current COVID-19 outbreak impact the lives of families, especially Chinese Americans. They also plan to perform a follow-up after the initial research phase in around six to nine months later.
The team wants to see how parents have helped socialize their children, letting them cope across various issues, including identity, race, and psychosocial adjustment. Further, the team will study outbreak-related Twitter posts to understand better how public opinion, such as discriminatory attitudes and anxiety, change as the outbreak worsens or slows down. The tweets that will be analyzed were those from late 2019 onwards, so the current Twitter posts amid the peak of the coronavirus will be included.
The team said that the studies exploring the negative effect of infectious diseases on mental and psychological health is still limited, particularly for minority groups tied to a specific condition. The study results will help add to the understanding of how parents help their children cope with these issues, amid current health and social threat.
"As a researcher focusing on bullying and mental health, I have seen and heard about discrimination towards Chinese-American and other Asian-American students, and increased anxiety related to COVID-19," Cixin Wang, assistant professor of school psychology in the department of counseling, higher education, and special education at UMD, said.
"We aim to study the unfolding outbreak and related discrimination against Chinese Americans and other Asian populations to identify specific ways to promote resilience and support children and families during this challenging time. The results can also help us more prepared for future epidemics like this," she added.
Coronavirus outbreak magnitude
The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak has already spread to 87 countries, across four continents. The World Health Organization (WHO) has not declared the coronavirus outbreak as a pandemic yet, though nearly 100,000 have already been infected globally, killing more than 3,300 people.
The majority of infections occurred in mainland China, specifically Hubei Province, where the virus came originated. Outside China, South Korea has the highest number of confirmed cases, with 6,284 cases and 40 deaths. Meanwhile, the highest number of fatalities outside China is in Italy, with 148 deaths and 3,858 confirmed cases, followed by Iran with 107 deaths and 3,513 confirmed cases.