COVID-19 spread impacts Iowa State and global economy

COVID-19 has spread throughout the world, causing Iowa State to cancel some study abroad programs following travel advisories from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Jillian Seweryn

The recent COVID-19 outbreak has silently been making its way throughout the globe. 

The initial outbreak of the new coronavirus disease 2019, abbreviated COVID-19, was in the city of Wuhan, China. Originating among animals and dispersing through an animal market, the disease moved through the city, causing a panic and tens of thousands of infections.

“Such places generally have poor hygiene and lots of species in confined spaces, along with lots of human traffic, making them the perfect spot to originate such a disease,” said Jonathan Hassid, associate professor of political science.

There are several other common coronaviruses people may be infected with at least once in their life, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). COVID-19 is a new disease found in humans for the first time within the past few months.

With symptoms similar to that of influenza, the virus ranges from mild to severely ill. The virus is thought to spread mainly from person to person via respiratory droplets. These droplets are produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes and can be transferred within six feet of another person. Symptoms of the virus appear anywhere between two to 14 days of exposure, according to the CDC.

Because of the disease’s impact on China, a level four travel warning has been issued by the American State Department. All travel to China should be avoided and those currently there should “attempt to depart by commercial means,” according to the State Department.

Iowa State impact

President Wendy Wintersteen has issued two statements on the disease within the last two months. With only five cases of the virus in the U.S. at the time, Wintersteen reassured students that Iowa State was taking action in her email on Jan. 28.

“I want to share with you the steps the university is taking in response and assure you that we are working closely with public health officials to monitor the situation,” Wintersteen said in her first emailed statement. 

The statement told students that Thielen Student Health Center (TSHC) is following CDC guidelines for screening and other tests for patients.

“As the situation is changing rapidly, TSHC continues to partner with the CDC and Iowa Department of Public Health to share the most up-to-date information with campus,” Wintersteen said in the email.

Although there are no known cases in Iowa, the university wants to limit the risk of spreading the disease by prohibiting travel to China until it is safe and clear, according to the statement.

In a second statement emailed Friday, students were given a new restriction.

“Based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Department of State, we are restricting travel to South Korea,” Wintersteen said in that email.

The university is still monitoring the situation and will update students on any further information involving travel, according to Wintersteen’s email.

Then an update arrived Saturday.

In a post on the university’s website, Iowa State announced it is “prohibiting all travel to Italy.” Students studying abroad received an email informing students they need to depart Italy by Friday.

We have notified students currently studying abroad in Italy and are making arrangements for their return to the U.S.,” according to the website.

The university is also asking that students check the CDC or State Department websites before any of their travels during spring break. Iowa State is asking students to reconsider travel to countries with level 3 CDC or level 4 State Department travel advisories that are based on the disease. 

Wintersteen reminded students in her email there are no cases of COVID-19 on the Iowa State campus or in Iowa.

“A campus workgroup continues to monitor developments both in Iowa and abroad, and we will make decisions on travel to additional locations based on CDC and State Department recommendations,” Wintersteen said in the email. 

In order to keep the virus from arriving on campus, students were reminded to prevent transferring of any respiratory illness by covering mouths when coughing or sneezing, staying home if one is sick, washing hands often with soap and water and getting enough rest and sleep at night.

The disease and Iowa

The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) has also been keeping watch on COVID-19.

So far, there are no confirmed cases of the virus in the state of Iowa. On their website, there is a chart updated every Monday, Wednesday and Friday with the amount of Iowans being monitored and tested for COVID-19. As of Monday, there were five Iowans being monitored for the disease, with 39 who completed the monitoring process. Five people were tested for the virus, three of which came back negative and two that are still pending, according to the website.

The website also lists several frequently asked questions as well as tips on preparing for the virus and travel concerns.

An example of the questions on the website is: “What is public health in Iowa doing to protect Iowans from COVID-19?”

“CDC notifies IDPH of incoming asymptomatic travelers from China (symptomatic travelers will be assessed by healthcare providers prior to being released from the airport),” according to the website. “Public health then evaluates asymptomatic individuals for risk level and issues public health monitoring orders that outline requirements to report symptoms to public health twice daily and restrictions on daily activities.” 

Not only is the health department keeping an eye on any and all updates about the virus, but legislators from Iowa have also put out statements to try to reassure Iowans they are working to keep people healthy.

Sen. Chuck Grassley recently released a statement answering two questions concerning the disease and its place in Iowa.

“I’ve focused my oversight and legislative efforts to make sure [the] government works effectively for the American people,” Grassley said in the statement.

Iowa’s senior senator also reminded Iowans that although it is not yet a pandemic, COVID-19 is spreading. 

“I’m concerned China appears to have tried to cover up the initial outbreak and may still not be accurately sharing the size, scale and scope of the pathogen’s reach with other countries,” Grassley said in the statement.

Grassley said in the statement that as two of the largest countries in the world, the United States and China should work together to decrease the outbreak’s intensity before it becomes a global pandemic.

Economic impact

Economically, the coronavirus is starting to impact many industries and individuals globally.

Countries such as China and South Korea are being hit with economic challenges. President Donald Trump recently issued a travel ban on both countries.

Eun Kwan Choi, professor of economics at Iowa State, commented on the issue of travel.  

“President Trump wisely imposed the ban,” Choi said. “Because of an imminent visit of [Chinese President] Xi Jinping, the South Korean President [Moon Jae-in] failed to impose a ban on incoming Chinese. […]There are now more than 1,700 confirmed cases of coronavirus in South Korea. More than one million Koreans are petitioning to impeach President Moon for this failure.” 

Choi said due to the sudden impact that COVID-19 has caused, China’s economy may see a decline within the first two quarters but get back on their feet soon after.

As China is one of the largest producers of manufactured goods, especially for people in the United States, the shipping industry will definitely see an impact, Choi said.

“There will be a global decrease in the demand for Chinese products,” Choi said. “[The U.S.] may have to find other countries […] to import those products that heretofore were supplied by the Chinese.”

Chad Hart, associate professor of economics, said for right now people should not let this virus change their thinking of long-term problems.

In terms of short-term problems however, Hart said the economy is already seeing them.

“It depends on how big the outbreak finally becomes, but [in terms of the economic impacts] we’re sure seeing some of them now,” Hart said. “You’ve seen the stock market decline, prices [falling] for agricultural products, and various future markets.”

As the virus is transferred through respiratory droplets, professor Choi said there is an increase in face mask purchases among Asian consumers and a soon-to-be increasing demand for surgical masks in the United States. Despite the use of masks or goggles, Choi said travel to affected countries should be avoided until the coronavirus is contained to limit the risk of spreading the disease.