Since my last report, so many happenings concerning the virus have been announced via the international news network.
- US air carriers Delta, United and American Airlines have suspended all flights to and from China. American has announced suspending to March 27; United until March 28; Delta (my carrier) until April 30. Refunds, rebookings or credits have been offered with fee waivers. Other countries’ airlines have also followed with either limited flights or no flights.
- The US State Department raised to a Level 4, advising “no travel to China” for US citizens. Also closing our borders to any nationals coming from China.
- The 143 China Peace Corp Volunteers, sent to Thailand on January 26 to “wait it out”, are now officially going back to America. The PC China program was originally to end in the summer of 2021 but with the current situation, it will most likely be the program will close for good with those who have 1 1/2 years left in their PCV contracts being offered other countries or the choice to terminate their service altogether.
- As of today, 362 deaths have been reported with 17,000 infected worldwide.
- Deaths have already surpassed those of SARS in 2002-3
- The State Department suggests Americans stranded in China stock up on food, don’t go out into public areas and remain indoors. (That has already been in effect for Chinese citizens for several weeks.
News from Colleagues and Friends
All across China, things are still on lock-down status. In the city of Luzhou (5 million), which is my city and far from Wuhan, precautions are similar to everyplace else as mandates have come down from the provincial and central governments.
- Masks are necessary when venturing outside. No one is allowed on buses or into supermarkets without a mask.
- Banks, supermarkets, pharmacies and hospitals are to remain open for the public.
- All other mom-and-pop shops are required to close, as are public gathering places for people (parks, fitness centers, shopping malls, recreational facilities, cinemas, restaurants). I am guessing American food giants currently in my city (Walmart, just recently opened, McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, KFC, Dairy Queen, Burger King) are not open.
- Streets are eerily and completely deserted with just a few folks venturing out to grocery stores.
- So many are now ordering things on the Internet, from food supplies to clothes to basic necessities …. and masks, if they can get them. These are delivered to central locations with text messages announcing pick-up codes and collection times for residents.
- The country’s extension of the Chinese New Year holidays ended on February 3rd when company employees and other businesses were asked to return to their offices.
The Virus App
A new App, which almost everyone has downloaded on their phones, sends out information on hourly updates of deaths and infections as well as areas in your personal city that have been infected. For example, let’s say you were traveling on one of the limited buses that have been tooling about or in a particular Uber or taxi. Someone was officially announced by the hospital to have been infected and reports of where they had been are posted. The App is updated to tell others if you were on such-and-such a bus, at such-and-such a time, monitor yourself at home and be aware that you might be carrying the virus.
One of my Nanjing friends announced that a high-rise apartment building was considered a risk and floors X to X were closed, meaning no resident was to leave his/her apartment on those floors. Food and meals were being delivered to the families (not sure by whom) while they waited it out in their homes to see if the virus had infected anyone.
Drastic Measures of Confinement
One of my former Amity teachers told of her student from years ago who now has a family and lived in Wuhan. She sent me the following note on January 29:
“I have been using WeChat with about 25 former students and 3 teaching colleagues from Fuyang city (Anhui Province, not Hubei Province where Wuhan is situated). Most are staying at home and being as safe as possible. One took his family from Hubei Province to Guangdong Province, but the plane would not accept them, so he went to Hangzhou city, but could not get a hotel room because of being from Hubei. He made it to Nanjing, where he was informed he must return to Hubei and remain isolated at home for 14 days. They next went to a community west of Shanghai. Last word, they were still there. Am waiting on news from a teaching colleague in Fuyang on their status.”
Such is the fate of those who tried to leave Hubei in the beginning crackdowns, only to find themselves stranded, so it seems, as the government quickly moved to contain anyone thinking of escaping.
My Current Status
At present, I am grounded in my hometown of Marshall, Illinois, where my mom and I continue to clean out the house for her future move. The past week has not seen much progress as I have not been too enthused about starting up again, not knowing if I’d be leaving on time or not.
Now that Delta has announced the halting of all flights, my Feb. 11 departure back to China is officially off the table.
My sending agency representative, Chinese national Liu Ruhong, currently in Nanjing city, has already spoken with me on the phone. She has conferred with the Amity Foundation (my organization in China) about my current dilemma. After discussions, Amity has informed my college in Luzhou that I will not be returning by February 17th for the faculty meetings nor, most likely, by February 24th which is to begin the school year.
According to my college, leaders still plan to hold classes on the 24th, with over 10,000 of our returning students allowed to begin arriving to the campus on the 22nd. I am guessing that soon, the provincial and central government will “recommend” (in other words, mandate) later dates for schools to open. Already, Gansu Province is announcing March to mid-March for educational institutions (primary to secondary to tertiary) to resume.
In the United Methodist Board office in Atlanta, I am waiting to discuss possibilities on what to do with me during this hiatus period. One does wonder how long it will last.
In the meantime, I am certainly ready to go with my masks. Dr. Turner came through for me and I have 100 ready to be packed into the suitcase for my China return, whenever that comes about.
Until the next report, here’s wishing you 平安 (ping ahn) for your day.