Peyton Stotelmyre / Daily Nexus

To my fellow Gauchos:

I told myself for the sake of your reading pleasure that I would try not to ramble — and for the sake of journalistic integrity and my fragile ego, any rambling should be attributed to what us humanities majors like to call “artistic freedom.” But, of course, the rambling isn’t without reason.

Within a few short weeks, all of our lives have changed and now updates on the coronavirus seem to come by the hour. Uncertainty breeds a mix of feelings, whether that’s anxiety over how to stay healthy, sadness caused by social distancing or happiness from spending more time with loved ones. The ambiguity inherent in uncertainty can trigger almost any emotion —  and all of these emotions you are feeling are natural. That being said, as young, healthy college students, we are in a unique position of both privilege and vulnerability.

On privilege, I’ll be the first to say it: Check your privilege. No, this isn’t just directed towards the senior srat members sulking over the loss of spring break 2020. It’s about all of us. It’s about the fact that we are all being impacted by this new reality in different ways. For some of us, the largest inconvenience we will face is taking our classes online and not getting to see our friends in person, but many members of our community are facing challenges beyond that of a student. Many will lose their lives and many more will lose their loved ones, their livelihoods, their jobs and their health. We have all lost a part of our freedom, but our privileges are unique to each of us, and it is for that reason that community is so vital.

The virus is here. There is one identified case in Isla Vista so far and we cannot afford to be selfish and think only of ourselves. Don’t wait for this to become “real’’ or relevant to you. Don’t wait until you know someone who has it or know someone who has lost a family member. The virus is affecting our community now and our community’s health depends on how effectively all of us practice social distancing. We have the capacity to stay home without completely halting our lives. We have the privilege of taking our courses online and we have the power to support each other. Think of your neighbors, think of the people you love, the people you don’t, the human lives at risk and when you think of your own very real struggles, think of them among the struggles of those which make up our community.

And while having this awareness, it is also important to evaluate how these sudden changes have affected you. The world is moving forward and we are moving forward with it, but many of us haven’t stopped to feel that move for everything that it is and will be. As college students, we have an almost inevitable dependence on our campus, not just as our place for academic development but our place for meaningful interpersonal interaction. Our lives as college students provide us with routine and stability; our campus fosters curiosity and evokes creativity. 

We are vulnerable to the sudden loss of all of the smallest details that made up our days: the light, ocean mist in the morning, the bustle of the bike lane, the familiar energy of the Arbor. And in many ways, we are vulnerable to silence at a time when we need to think and process and feel. So, to come full circle, do your rambling. You may not have clear feelings about the loss of riding around the bike circles or late nights in the library, but you know you have some feelings about it. Rambling your way through those thoughts with your friends will be a good reminder that you’re not alone. We are here and we are struggling together.

*socially distanced* xoxo,


The best way to alleviate stress during times of uncertainty is to stay informed! I have answered some of your questions, but for more information please visit or sign up for free alerts from any of these various media platforms: The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times.


☆                                                                                  ☆                                                                            ☆


How do I know if I have the coronavirus and what do I do? 

The CDC identifies a fever, cough and shortness of breath as symptoms to watch for. Please contact your healthcare provider by phone immediately if you have these symptoms and proceed with their instruction. DO NOT go straight to your healthcare provider, as doing so will potentially put others and yourself at risk. Call them first and they will give you medical advice. 

As I’m sure you’ve heard again and again, it is our responsibility to slow the spread of the virus so we don’t overwhelm the healthcare system and take away valuable resources from patients who need them. For more information on how the virus spreads exponentially and the importance of flattening the curve, check out this article.


☆                                                                                  ☆                                                                            ☆


My roommate has been having people over every night and I’m worried I’m going to get sick. I was planning on going home to see my parents but at this rate, I don’t think I can risk going home and getting my parents sick. What should I do?

As with any issue you have with housemates, it’s important to address it as soon as possible, as calmly as possible and as reasonably as possible. With this issue in particular, there is a lot at stake. I would suggest having a conversation with all of your housemates to establish some rules and practices during the coronavirus. None of us have lived through a pandemic before so it’s not expected that everyone will react to this situation in the same way. However, that isn’t an excuse to be careless or insensitive to one another.

The bottom line: Your home is a shared space. Given how easily the virus spreads, your house is only as safe as the most careless person in it. Even if four out of five of your housemates are cautious, one housemate being inconsiderate about hygiene or who they interact with will put you all at risk. This isn’t to say that your house needs to be on lockdown, but there are ways all of you can actively work to protect each other while making sure people feel comfortable in their own spaces. For instance, you could all make sure you wash your hands as soon as you come home or develop a cleaning schedule. You may also want to discuss what will happen if one of you gets sick. Will there be a designated bathroom for that person? How will you ensure you are all properly informed on best practices to keep each other healthy? Where will this person go if they need medical assistance? That is up for your house to decide, but having these conversations early will help reduce potentially stressful and risky situations. Having awareness is extremely important — be aware of your own needs and be prepared to advocate for yourself, but also be aware of how your actions may impact others around you.


☆                                                                                  ☆                                                                            ☆


The coronavirus is basically the flu, why is everyone freaking out so much? 

It’s not the fucking flu. Although there are some symptoms that resemble those of the flu, COVID-19 should not be handled as if it is the average flu. 

Five years ago, Bill Gates gave us a warning. As he put it, “an epidemic that would be more infectious and spread faster than Ebola did… is the greatest risk of a huge tragedy.” This would be the kind of tragedy Gates said we were unprepared for. He identified two main types of flus: ones that spread effectively between humans and ones that are extremely deadly. Those two factors have only occurred together once in history, during the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918, known as the Spanish flu, which took the lives of nearly 65 million people.

The mortality rates of both the Spanish flu and COVID-19 are roughly 2.5% for the time being, but the coronavirus’s potential to spread is what makes it even more deadly. Many people who are already infected display no symptoms for days. These are the people who are unknowingly spreading the disease and causing avoidable deaths. 

Simply put, hospitals’ capacities are limited by the number of available beds. Roughly 20% of coronavirus cases require hospital treatment and the virus’s ability to spread exponentially can lead to a surge in cases. This surge is what results in avoidable deaths due to our healthcare system being overwhelmed. That’s the key. If we are able to limit the total number of cases, there will be less of a need for hospital beds and less avoidable deaths. 

So yes, the flu kills hundreds of thousands of people, but its ability to spread is nothing like that of the coronavirus.


☆                                                                                  ☆                                                                            ☆


Why is it racist to call the coronavirus the Chinese virus? It did start in China just like a lot of other really deadly diseases, and the Chinese government even tried to cover it up initially.

It’s racist because to call the coronavirus the Chinese virus would be attaching certain — most likely negative — ideas about the virus to an entire group of people. The actions and decisions of the Chinese government are not the actions of Chinese people as a whole. The actions by some Chinese people in one city or one region are not the actions of individuals of Chinese descent that live in America. Even if there was evidence that 100% linked the Coronavirus to a wet market in Wuhan, to attach the disease to an ethnic group is most definitely prejudicial.

This is not the first time infectious disease has led to prejudice and it is certainly not the last. This pattern has only done damage to the sanctity of cultural diversity and the unity of this country. Ignorance should not be the choice we make as it will only spread hate and fear, if not reinforce the hold of xenophobia within the US.

~ History lesson for you ~

From 1959-1961, the largest famine in history took place in China, killing an estimated more than 30 million people. In the following decades, much of China’s population remained in poverty and consequently was starving. The communist regime which controlled all food production was unable to provide enough for its people to survive. It was at this point in 1978 that the government allowed for private farming. This practice of private farming lifted millions of suffering people out of poverty. A household-based contract responsibility system was put in place in which land was leased to families with the conditions of meeting fixed output quotas. Families were given land to meet their own needs and it was on these smaller private farms that families caught wild animals such as turtles to feed themselves. 

Because this wildlife farming was successful, it gained governmental support, which drastically changed the course of wildlife farming. These farms – whatever needed to be done to mitigate poverty – were encouraged. With the support of the government and the further development of policies to protect this type of farming, smaller farms turned into an industry and along with this industry came the illegal trading of endangered animals like tigers and pangolins. Some of these endangered species were later sanctioned by the government for sale.

What started as a solution to the imminent hunger plaguing families across China turned into an industry for the wealthy few of the country. China is the top consumer of illegally traded species but these species are being consumed by the richest people in China — a minority of the population that holds extreme lobbying capabilities (what’s new). 

So before you go stereotyping an entire group of people, think about what you might be missing.


☆                                                                                  ☆                                                                            ☆



It was my original inclination to tell you to try something new to fill your time, and I do encourage that, but you can only try so many new things before “trying something new” loses its excitement and sparkle. In that vein, I would say a few things: stay active, have regular virtual social contact and do more of what you love.

It’s easy to underestimate how much we actually move around when we go from class to class or to various meetings. Now that seemingly everything has been moved to the virtual world, it’s important not just to get up and move around, but to actually go outside. We live way too close to the beach and the mountains for anyone to stay inside anyways. Even if you’re not a particularly active person, taking a walk to the beach or even just around the block can be therapeutic. 

I cannot stress enough how important social isolation is, but even though you shouldn’t physically be with anyone outside of the people you absolutely must see, you should still actively try to talk with your friends. Check up on them and also use this as a time to talk about how all of these changes have affected you. It is too easy to close yourself off to the world but short, regular check-ins with your loved ones will help you maintain your sanity while socially isolating. Plan wine nights or game nights with groups of friends once a week over FaceTime or Google Hangouts or Snapchat (try the filters — you won’t regret it). Having regular, scheduled meetings with your friends will give you something to look forward to. I also have gotten in the habit of sending my friends photos of puppies and Jude Law. Likewise, I always love it when I get articles from my dad or funny memes from my friends; these small points of contact throughout the day make all the difference.

Lastly, do more of what you love. Invest in doing the things you love and connect with people who share your interests. If you enjoy exercising, join a virtual yoga group or plan weekly runs around the lagoon with your housemates. If you enjoy reading, start a book club or make a reading schedule with all of the books you’d like to read. Plan virtual movie night or painting nights with friends. Set personal goals for yourself, something you can track. Whatever you enjoy, make plans and connect with others!

Got an anonymous question for AJ? Submit here!


AJ is the advice guru of the Daily Nexus. Multiple writers contribute to Ask AJ. If you know who they are, keep it to yourself. Remember, snitches get stitches.