Panel Explores International Ramifications of Coronavirus

Photo Courtesy of CSPS Student Fellow

Center for Security Policy Studies opens a discussion of coronavirus issues


On Feb. 21, the Center for Security Policy Studies (CSPS) hosted a speaker series on Mason’s Arlington campus with a panel of experts to discuss the implications of the coronavirus — named COVID-19 — crisis. 

The panelists relayed different perspectives on how COVID-19 has affected people in various ways and how big the human impact actually is.

“The three panelists completely laid out the coronavirus issues in three different perspectives, and I think I have a much [clearer] understanding of what the issue [is] and how we’re moving forward,” said Kalegha Voke, a CSPS student fellow. “I’m also very interested to see the future China and U.S. relationship and how it will affect the public.” 

Ellen Laipson, a CSPS director, started off the event introducing the first panelist, Stephen Morrison, a senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and director of Global Health Policy Center. 

“This is an astonishing outbreak,” Morrison said. “Many unknowns persist throughout this. The human dimension of this crisis gets lost and not much discussion. There are still millions of people in China who are living in the midst of fear and uncertainty.” 

Morrison shared his experience at the Munich Security Conference with officials from the World Health Organization. 

He pointed out that the U.S. does not have great measurements or treatment as of yet, and there is a limited understanding of transmissibility of the illness and testing capacity. 

The second panelist, Ashley Grant, a biotechnologist and adjunct professor in Mason’s biodefense program, discussed the importance of knowing the risk factors of what makes people more susceptible to infection or death. 

“The declaration of the public health emergency activates to spend more funds, do additional research and start the support system,” Grant said. “Several different parts of the health and human services including the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Food and Drug Administration and more are working for the outbreak.” 

The last panelist, Ketian Zhang, an assistant professor of international security in the Schar School of Policy and Government with a regional focus on East Asia, shared her personal story as someone who was in China during the outbreak and got on the last flight to the U.S. 

“Chinese provinces give one permit to each household — that means only one family member can leave the residential area for two hours every two days,” Zhang said. “Despite these efforts, the number has been increased, and obviously, we don’t know how many times more are the actual number of cases.” 

She also pointed out that the people who are angry at Chinese authorities have pushed for freedoms in expression, media and state transparency. 

“The central government tightened media control [to show] that they are not ready to respond, and the public is angry about it,” Zhang said. 

Senior global affairs major Ha Eun Choi weighed in on the panel. 

“This issue includes different responses and treatments depending on countries, [ethnicities], culture and government type. It warns us that human security is a critical domain that should be regarded as a top priority,” Choi said. 

The next CSPS speaker series will focus on another big issue of the rapid proliferation and pervasive influence of technology in human societies. The event will be held on March 4 at noon at the Arlington Campus in Van Metre Hall 113.