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Viewpoint: Coronavirus's impact on foreign relations and diplomacy; COVID-19 convalescent plasma donation

BSU foreign policy expert Steven Feldstein discusses foreign relations amid the pandemic. Plus, Vanessa Fry talks about donating her COVID-19 convalescent plasma.

BOISE, Idaho — The coronavirus pandemic is affecting how governments around the globe do business and interact with each other and citizens.

Steven Feldstein, a foreign policy expert with the Frank Church Institute at Boise State University, sat down for an interview for this week's Viewpoint.

When asked how much of an impact the coronavirus has had on U.S. foreign relations, Feldstein said there has been a "continued diminishment" in American influence on the global stage.

Editor's note: The following excerpt has been edited for clarity and length:

Steven Feldstein: With the coronavirus what we've sort of seen is the U.S. abdicating leadership on a global stage even more. There's been an inward turn. So what that means is as we sort of go it alone and work less and less with allies and partners, they look to other countries or they have to look to themselves in order to go forward. So what that means in terms of U.S. influence is a continued diminishment. And I think that's concerning for a lot of people because there is a world and a lot of geopolitics beyond just the coronavirus and by only focusing on our own internal needs and not thinking about the global stage, I think that hurts our leadership standing.

Doug Petcash: You are a former deputy assistant secretary of state, a diplomat. How difficult is it to do foreign policy, foreign relations at a time like this when people can't even meet face to face?

Feldstein: It's hard. It's hard. I mean diplomacy is about personal relationships. It's about getting on a plane, meeting with counterparts and trying to work through solutions. So right now we're all grounded. What we're doing here in terms of Zoom meetings is how diplomacy is essentially being done. So it makes it challenging in a normal, in any kind of situation like this. And with the tensions that we're seeing rising up, there's a really good possibility of miscommunication, misunderstanding at a pretty fraught moment."

Feldstein also discussed how some foreign leaders are taking advantage of the pandemic to seize more power and enact measures that could lead to the long-term oppression of their people.

You can watch the full Viewpoint episode by clicking on the video.

Also on this week's Viewpoint

A Boise woman caught the coronavirus, fought it, beat it, and then rolled up her sleeve in hopes of helping others fight it.

After recovering from COVID-19, Vanessa Fry recently donated convalescent plasma at the Red Cross in Boise.

She says she is just driven to try to help others who are really sick with the disease.

Fry was diagnosed with COVID-19 back in March, shortly after returning home to Boise from a ski trip to Sun Valley.

She says she felt better in about a week.

According to the Red Cross, people who have recovered from the illness often have antibodies in their plasma that can attack the virus. The plasma is infused through a vein into patients who are very sick with COVID-19.

Researchers are still looking into whether this type of therapy is effective, but the signs so far have been encouraging.

Fry now wants to encourage others who have recovered to donate their plasma.

Vanessa Fry:  There's still so much unknown about COVID, and if there's an opportunity for people to give and donate their convalescent plasma, maybe the people that are doing the research on what the breakthroughs might be to help support people that are suffering, you know, if they have more plasma maybe that can help expedite the process.

Doug Petcash:  Explain to people who are thinking about doing this, what's it like to donate plasma.

Vanessa Fry: Like I said, I'd never done it before. Very similar to donating blood at first. You get screened when you go into the building and then you get screened with some health questions and they take your temperature. Then they set you up in the same sort of set-up that you are normally in when you give blood except it's a different type of machine. So the needle is in your arm in the same way, but what they're doing is they're not only taking fluid out, they're also putting some back in. I'm not terribly familiar with all the technology behind it other than I know they keep my plasma and they give some blood back along with some hydrating fluids.

Doug Petcash: Was it painful?

Vanessa Fry:  No. it wasn't painful. It was more odd. When the fluid was going back in, they did tell me I might experience this, but it felt very cold.

Fry also said she ended up passing the disease on to her husband. Neither of them had to be hospitalized, and he also started feeling better within a week.

In Boise, the Red Cross had collected 150 convalescent plasma donations as of May 26, and thousands around the country.

Fry is a board member with the Red Cross of Greater Idaho. That's how she found out about the plasma donation program.

If you have fully recovered from COVID-19 and would like to learn about donating plasma, or see if you are eligible to donate, click here. www.redcrossblood.org/plasma4covid

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