In midst of coronavirus pandemic, Inter Miami’s Jay Chapman recalls his SARS experience

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When the novel coronavirus first caught Jay Chapman’s attention, it took him back to the time he had proximity to an epidemic as a kid.

The Inter Miami midfielder was 9 years old and living in Brampton, a city in the Greater Toronto Area, when the first case of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) was reported in Toronto, Canada in February 2003.

“I was young, but I definitely knew what was going on,” Chapman said about SARS during a recent interview with the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “It was a little bit different than coronavirus from my point of view just because coronavirus I feel like is a lot more contagious and a lot more people have it. SARS was obviously a very big deal but I don’t think it reached the lengths coronavirus has, which is kind of crazy.”

While the new coronavirus pandemic is more contagious, SARS had a higher fatality rate among those who became infected. Of the 8,098 infected, 774 (9.56 percent) died. The new coronavirus has a worldwide mortality rate nearly half (4.71 percent) of SARS, and even less deadly in the U.S. (1.77 percent).

Chapman remembers people taking similar precautions for SARS at the time as they are for the coronavirus now while acknowledging the different concerns between the two.

“I would go to soccer practice down (in Toronto) and I’d see people with masks on and I would go ‘this is really strange,’” Chapman said. “Coronavirus has affected more people, but it definitely brings back memories of that.”

Chapman said he knew about the coronavirus before it started gaining a lot of attention in the U.S.

His dad lives in Jinan, the capital of the Shandong province in eastern China, located about 550 miles north of Wuhan, where the new coronavirus was first detected. Chapman said his dad made him aware of the disease after the first few cases in China were reported.

“He was saying how seriously it hit the communities in China and basically if it got over here just listen to the government and be safe,” Chapman said.

“They got put into quarantine pretty quickly once it started. There was a little grocery store they could go to, but they couldn’t really do anything. Obviously any time you’re told by the government to stay inside, it’s pretty serious. He was basically telling me the same things the government has been telling us here — wash your hands regularly, don’t go into super-public areas and stay home if you can.”

But even with the disease on his radar, Chapman said it took for the situation to hit closer to home for him to understand its severity.

“We’re kind of behind here,” Chapman said. “They’re like six months ahead of this whole thing. I’ve known about it for a while, but obviously it hasn’t really affected my day to day life personally until the businesses (shut down) and the team started shutting down practices. I think once all the major things started closing, that was when I realized ‘okay, this is not something we should be taking lightly.’”

Based on what he’s heard from his dad, Chapman said the situation in China has started to turn around. His dad, who’s a former professional golfer and gives golf lessons now, was allowed to do his instructing again earlier this week with a mask on after having to stay home from work for almost two months.

“From what I understand they’re trying to get back into a rhythm,” Chapman said. “It’s starting to look up over there from the sense that I got.”

Chapman said the biggest thing he has learned from his closeness to SARS as a kid or his dad’s coronavirus-related experiences in China is that’s important to be selfless and listen to the authorities on the steps to take.

“The only advice that I could really give is to listen to medical professionals and listen to the government,” Chapman said. “Reading well-documented and well-researched and qualified professionals is the best way to go about this and do what they’re telling you. If they tell you to stay inside, stay inside. If they say it’s okay to go do this and that, go ahead, but don’t do anything you aren’t supposed to do.

“Nobody is bigger than the virus.”


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