Standing room crowd at Cal to learn more about coronavirus

An infectious disease expert drew hundreds of people Thursday night to learn more about the coronavirus during a special speaking event held at UC Berkeley's School of Public Health.

Dr. Art Reingold, a professor at UC Berkeley, wanted to educate students, staff and the public and stop the spread of misinformation.

Many in the standing-room only crowd came for answers. 

"If I have better knowledge about it, I could prepare for them and let other people know what the situation is," said Daniel Han, a UC Berkeley student who's aspiring to be a doctor.  

Reingold said  wealthy countries such as the United States have the capability to prevent the coronavirus from spreading in large numbers.

 "Even if we have the rare event of someone transmitting to someone here in the United States," he said. "We're not going to see large community wide outbreaks like we've seen in China.

Reingold said  despite work to develop a vaccine quickly, he doesn't believe there will be one  readily available for at least a year. 

When asked whether people should avoid large gatherings and does wearing a mask help, Reingold replied that there's no indication that doing either is necessary.

For now, the University of California has suspended its education abroad program to China for the spring semester.

As for Chinese students at UC Berkeley, a school official said, "Since our spring semester started before the virus was elevated as an epidemic, none of our students were impacted to our knowledge."

 But some students say they have been impacted by the virus, because of the social fallout.

"We were looked at, stared at on the plane by others," said Cecelia Fei. 

The graduate student said she wore a mask on the flight back to Bay Area Jan. 24  after a visit home to Sichuan, China, roughly 600 miles from Wuhan where the outbreak started.

Fei said she went to  the  campus student health center where she was told she didn't need to be quarantined because she didn't have symptoms. 

Fei said she has been treated well by others on campus.

 "Some of the students at other colleges have been either pointed at or shouted at," she said. "But I feel like at Berkeley, everyone has been open-minded and welcoming."