I am a junior at a large state university. Lately, as you all have probably heard, the coronavirus is spreading like a wildfire and we all should be scared.

My instructor is from China, and my school is also filled with Asian students. How do I ask for excused absences so that I can stay at home for the lectures so that I won't get the virus from my instructor or my Asian classmates? Do I contact the chair of the department that's offering the course or the dean of the school? Would it be better if I ask to switch to an online class instead (it's already after the add/drop period)

Some suggestion would be helpful.

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    The chance to be infected by this new corona virus outside the mainly affected regions are still very small. It is probably more likely to be run over by a car or to get the 'ordinary' influenza. And these two things are also not exactly something you should be scared about to an extent which influences your life like you are suggesting. So for the moment: Relax. And by the way, it is not like Asians will transmit the disease just because they are Asians. Your question could be read like that, so you might want to edit for clarity. – Snijderfrey Jan 31 '20 at 10:19
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    You are not going to catch coronavirus just because your classmates are Asian. – astronat Jan 31 '20 at 11:27
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    How scared are you of getting the flu? It has a similar death rate. If you've been fine going to class during flu season (especially if you skip flu shots) then you shouldn't have a problem with this one. – Kathy Jan 31 '20 at 13:51
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    In case this is not clear to you: The virus started in the city of Wuhan in a badly cleaned markets. The only reason there are more Chinese people affected is because well, Wuhan is in China, there is absolutely nothing intrinsic of Chinese people/biology/culture that makes them carry the virus more. It could have started in a badly cleaned market in L.A., Paris, or Antananarivo. Unless this university you attend to is in Wuhan, these people have equal chance to infect you as your local coffee barista: almost zero. – Ander Biguri Jan 31 '20 at 17:44

You should do none of these things and we should not all be scared. This would be panic reaction.

You have not said in which country you are studying, but the Health authorities of most governments have issued official advice to their citizens which you should follow. Most institutions, such as universities, will also have issued official advice which you should also read and follow.

If you are in the UK the Department of Health has provided advice to UK universities.

If you wanted personal action, using hand cleansing gel dispensers provided by the university will reduce incidents of cross contamination and ensure regular hand-washing is your best defence.


If you have a special need, such as an immune deficiency, and must avoid all potential sources of infection, then your university will probably have some procedures to accommodate you. If you have deep psychological fears of disease then your university may have a counseling office to help you deal with your fears.

Otherwise, the other answers here, counseling you to relax should be considered as good advice.

Note, of course, that authorities are dealing with the problems of international travel by isolating travelers who might have become infected so that the problem is contained. It isn't Asians you need to be concerned with in any case. It is those frequent international travelers who don't comply with quarantine guidelines.


"We should all be scared" [citation needed]

However, some concern is reasonable. For this reason it is likely that your university has developed policies around this topic. Ask your contact point at the university (e.g. a student service centre or similar). Please be careful to avoid racism against people who look Asian.

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