What's not Understood?


This PECE Essay contains selected answers to the following interview question from the COVID-19 Rapid Student Interview Project: 

What are some things that you don’t understand about Covid-19, the way it has spread, public health recommendations, or responses to it by state, institutional, and individual actors?

Responses are grouped by themes, and will be updated periodically as more interviews are conducted. 

Cite as:

de la Torre III, Pedro. 2020. "What's not Understood," COVID-19 Rapid Student Interview Project, TRANSnational STS COVID-19 Project. STS-Disaster Research Network. 


“I don't understand the actual origin of the virus. There are so many theories of how/where it originated. Whether it was as innocent as the Chinese fish market or in a lab with the intention of biological warfare - I don't think the general public will ever know for sure."

-Auditor, Wallington, NJ, USA
March 2020 Interview
by NJIT Student Researcher

“There are a plethora of aspects about the coronavirus pandemic that I do not understand. I don't know how long someone can remain a carrier after contracting the virus nor do I understand the ambiguities of immunity after the virus has run its course. I would assume that infected individuals would become immune to that specic strain of the virus however I have also heard that COVID19 has capacity for rapid mutation. Is immunity to a certain strain then a nonfactor due to the rate of mutation of the virus? I've heard and read varied accounts that say the virus could remain without symptoms for a month. I am also not sure which demographic is most vulnerable to COVID19. I understand that due to the nature of the virus those with weaker respiratory systems are at risk but does the risk increase with age as well?”

-Undergraduate Student & Restauraunt/Bar Worker, Ewing, NJ, USA March 2020 Phone interview
By Nikhil Ramesh, NJIT

“What I don't understand is how the virus started, if it's really a biological attack, a sickness, a virus. I wonder how a virus like this becomes so powerful and how so many people can become affected.”

-Construction Worker, Newark, NJ, USA 
March 2020 interview
by Jeannie Chuquirima, NJIT

“Not sure if we're hearing the whole story of how it started or even if the public health recommendations are accurate.”

- Realtor, Middlesex County, NJ, USA 
March 2020 Phone interview
by NJIT Student Researcher

“It would be nice if we had more answers to some questions like, can you get re-infected, if you show negative on a test how long is that good for, and how long does the virus stay active on different kinds of surfaces?”

-Local government employee, NJ, USA 
March 2020 Text-based interview
by Brandon Farkas, NJIT

"I don't understand how people with COVID-19 had the health to go out and travel around" 

-Undergraduate Student, Alexandria, Egypt 
March 2020 Text-based interview
by Ahmed Mohamed, NJIT


Questioning the response

“What I do not understand is why every state in the country hasn't responded to the threat simultaneously. Had the United States worked as a group of united states we could have at least slowed the spread of the virus. Instead we have states like New York and California shut down while others such as Florida refused to shut down. What I also do not understand is why our president believed it was a good idea to lie about the severity of this virus."

- Undergraduate student, New Jersey, USA
March 2020 Text-based interview 
by Roberto Caamani, NJIT

“Why they are approaching it the way they are. We should be prioritizing people based on the jobs they do and not just the rich. I also am not too informed on the different symptoms that are presented with the patients.”

-Undergraduate student, Ramsey, NJ, USA
March 2020 Text-based interview
by NJIT Student Researcher

“From a scientic point of view, I completely understand how COVID-19 spreads and why it has such a high spread rate. What I do not understand is why the USA did not close its borders off completely until the rest of the world was clear. I do understand that this could've been a very difcult decision to make back then but I do strongly believe that it could've saved the lives of thousands of Americans.”

-Undergraduate student, Jackson, NJ, USA 
March 2020 Email Interview
By Sandra Guirguess, NJIT

“I would like to know why they haven’t been able to mass produce medical equipment quickly. It seems that we always produce everything at a fast rate now but why haven’t we produced a lot of medical equipment ahead of time so that in any case of emergency we would be prepared. The government has known about the threat of COVID- 19 since November. I don’t understand why we only began attempting to mass produce medical equipment once the threat was already at a dangerously high level.”

-Pharmacy Technician, PA, USA
March 2020 Phone interview
by NJIT Student Researcher

“Still don't understand why some countries are not impacted as much as USA, what is that they are doing different that they have been successful in containing the COVID- 19?”

-Business Owner, Somerset County, NJ, USA 
March 2020 interview
By Prithvi Gosala, NJIT

“Don't understand why we did not take the right actions sooner and now, why corporations are of greater importance to the government than the people”

-Scientist, Morris Plains, NJ, USA
March 2020 Paper Interview
By NJIT Student Researcher

“What I don't understand fully, is why its so hard to find a cure with the level of technology we have right not. I also want to know how the U.S. got so bad with so much fore warning”

-Undergraduate student, Somerset, NJ, U.S.A. 
March 2020 Videochat Interview 
by Prithvi Gosala, NJIT

“I do not understand the president statement that schools should be open in may since there is high number of people dying.”

-Undergraduate student, Kearny, NJ, USA 
March 2020 Email interview
by NJIT Student Researcher

“If I think about everything logically I guess it makes sense but there is always doubt in the back of your mind. Are we doing the right

thing? Is social distancing working? When this is over will it really be safe to go about our lives? I just seem to question why this virus is so much worse than everything else and how did we go for about 100 years without a pandemic like

this? I don’t know if I will ever have the answers to these questions. I guess we just have to wait and see and pray.”

-Respiratory Therapist, Delaware County, PA, USA 
March 2020 Email interview
by NJIT Student Researcher

“I don't understand why we don't institute that everyone wear masks and have a temperature taken before entering a public space.  We have to take more aggressive action.  I understand the way it spreads.  People who are sick have to stay home and self isolate.”

- Nurse/Nurse Practioner/EMT, Union, NJ USA
March 2020 Phone Interview
by NJIT Student Researcher

Individual Behavior

“The biggest thing I don't understand is how gullible the public has been when it comes to misinformation and corrupt media outlets. So many rumors are constantly spreading around which can be very dysfunctional in nding good information. Moreover, there is still a part of the population that completely disregards staying inside and practicing social distancing. So many people have made bad choices in discerning what is "essential" or not. Other than that, I believe state ofcials have handled this pandemic very well. When it comes to the actual virus, I believe I have been informed thoroughly.”

-Undergraduate student, Brick, NJ, USA 
March 2020 Text-based interview 
By Nour Mohamed, NJIT

“Mainly the spread. We get conicting information as to the way it is spread. Another thing is why everyone is hoarding and everyone wants to be the town crier on social media.”

-High School administrator, Gillette, NJ, USA 
March 2020 Phone interview
by NJIT Student Researcher

"I don't understand how they enforce social distancing but no one seems to care and follow the rules"

- Undergraduate student, Garfield, NJ, USA
March 2020 Face to face interview 
by NJIT Student Researcher