Missions respond to coronavirus outbreak

Taipei Taiwan Mission President Michael L. Peterson, left, and his wife Sister Shelley Pinegar Peterson, right, with three of their missionaries at a buffet on their last day in the mission field. They attended the temple earlier that day and had to wear masks during session. (Michael L. Peterson)

See also Hong Kong, Macau missionary service suspended due to coronavirus

Missions around the world are taking the necessary precautions to ensure health and safety in response to the recent outbreak of coronavirus in Wuhan, China.

A news release by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints posted stated, “We are closely monitoring the situation with the coronavirus and are in regular contact with medical professionals and experts on this issue.”

Information is being distributed to missions and parents of missionaries in areas that could be affected by coronavirus.

According to an article by CNN, the areas of outside of China that have been most affected by the virus mostly Southeast Asian countries; Taiwan has had at least 10 cases of the Coronavirus, South Korea at least 18 cases, Malaysia at least 10 cases, Japan at least 23 cases, Hong Kong at least 21 cases and Thailand at least 25 cases as of Feb. 5.

Taipei Taiwan Mission President Michael L. Peterson said that they are keeping in touch with government information in Taiwan and passing it onto their missionaries.

Karen Nelson’s son Bryson, left, and his companion, Spencer Baird, right. (Karen Nelson)

“I am not worried,” President Peterson said. “I am cautious and want the missionaries to be cautious. The winter cold is going around and so missionaries who have caught that are naturally a little nervous that they may have caught the virus, but the truth is that Taiwan is very under control.”

President Peterson said that unlike Hong Kong, the virus has not been a big issue in Taiwan because of the country’s proactive actions to prevent it.

“We all feel Taiwan is a safe place and are being very cautious during this time. If the situation worsens, then we will take additional measures,” President Peterson said.

Karen Nelson’s son, Bryson, is serving in the Taipei Taiwan Mission, and she said she’s not worried.

“President Peterson has been very good about communicating with us as parents and keeping us updated on the situation here,” Nelson said.

On Jan. 30 in the Korea Seoul Mission, President Bradford Taylor and his wife, Sister Ann Taylor, welcomed new missionaries at the airport with face masks.

“We have required all of our missionaries to take high doses of Vitamin C daily to boost their immune systems,” Sister Taylor said. “They have also been counseled to wear a mask when traveling in crowded places such as airports, subways, buses and trains. Our missionaries are always instructed to wash their hands frequently and drink lots of water and we are emphasizing that now more than ever.”

Brooke Jeppson said her son Dylan, a missionary in Malaysia, told her that it seems that half of the population in both Malaysia and Singapore are wearing masks. However, when asked by some missionaries if they could wear them, Dylan’s mission president said no because they would look unapproachable. He said if it gets out of hand and they feel like the missionaries are in danger, then they will reevaluate.

In an email to Jeppson, Dylan said “I am not scared of getting this virus. Where I am serving in East Malaysia, there has only been one case noted.”

Elder Dylan Jeppson serving in the Singapore Mission. He is currently in Eastern Malaysia. (Brooke Jeppson)

In the China Hong Kong Mission, the missionaries have been required to wear masks every day.

“Recently the missionaries were told to stay inside unless they had a lesson,” said Emily Lambert, who returned from the China Hong Kong Mission on Jan. 30. “Church was also canceled for two weeks to keep the members safe.”

From left, Abigail Alboroto, Chloe Tam, President Dennis Phillips, Sister May Phillips, Victoria Meacham and Emily Lambert. (Emily Lambert)

Becky Foushee’s son, Cole, is serving as a missionary in Bangkok, Thailand. She said that he isn’t doing much regarding the coronavirus at this time. She said her son and other missionaries are wearing masks primarily to combat pollution rather than battle the virus.

In an email to Foushee, Cole said he’s not nervous about getting the virus because he’s heard that it’s really only dangerous to people who are older or who were sick previous to getting the virus.

According to a letter to parents and stake presidents of missionaries in the Thailand Bangkok Mission from the mission president on Jan. 26, “There is no reason for panic, or extreme measures at this time. It is a time to be calm, wise and aware.”

The letter states that the deaths from the virus so far have almost all been elderly individuals or those who already have compromised health or were admitted to hospitals when their illness was advanced.

The letter ends by saying, “We love the missionaries, and we will do all in our power to protect them.”

Cole Fouhshee and his companion in Thailand. They wear face masks to protect against pollution rather than the virus. (Becky Fouhshee)
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