Warnings from Macao helped American parents prepare

By Christopher Cottrell Source:7星娱乐app-【官网首页】 Published: 2020/3/26 14:23:17

As an American healthcare editor and professor of communications based in Macao, watching COVID-19 unfold globally has been heart-wrenching. 

When it first broke in January, I was in Macao waiting for the spousal support visa for my Chongqing wife to clear so she could join me in the Special Administrative Region where we live. Suddenly, it became too dangerous for her to leave and travel restrictions were in place as rolling city quarantines engulfed the Chinese mainland.

Chongqing adopted strict preventive measures and she could only leave our apartment every three days. Luckily, her sister lives with us in Chongqing so she was not alone.

Meanwhile, my parents in California called me with worry. I assured them that their Chinese daughter-in-law was okay. But could they source some N95 masks for her parents? My dad couldn't find any online as they were being bought out by speculators. He and my mom drove to several stores around Orange County but came up empty handed. 

Although my company had ordered masks I could buy, and Macao provided free masks for non-resident workers, there were not enough to send over to Chongqing. Also, these were for local use not for export. So I decided on a risky operation to fly from Macao to the Philippines on the night of January 30 to buy safety gear. I bought masks and rubber gloves over those three days, then went to the Manila airport on the evening of February 2. Just as I cleared customs toward the boarding gates I heard the announcements: all flights to the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Macao were being cancelled. Suddenly, I was surrounded by thousands of Chinese passengers as we queued up for re-entry and were told to self-quarantine in a local hotel for at least 14 days. 

During those days in mid-February, a month before Manila erupted with cases and before I could fly back to Macao via Kuala Lumpur, I communicated with my wife and she explained the heroic actions being taken across China by frontline medical staff. I was very fortunate my job understood my situation as Macao was taking responsible steps right away. While several small-minded people in the West were criticizing Chinese for wearing masks, it later became evident that COVID-19's asymptomatic transmission meant people with masks, who might have been infected, were mitigating the spread.

I was also inspired by the morale-boosting social media as Chinese made entertaining existential videos, from women tying earpieces around their waists to Olympic sports enacted in people's living rooms. I conveyed all of this to my parents and family back in America and warned them that the West would soon have this disease so they had better stock up on soaps, hand-sanitizers, masks, and food for a few weeks. I also gave grave warnings about what this could do to the huge homeless populations in America - it would overwhelm their healthcare systems with pandemonium. 

Luckily, my family heeded the warnings I told them about from China's frontlines. I also sent them stories and academic articles my doctors and friends had sent me. From Macao, I was happy to report to them that the city's first medical school, which opened last September, had a champion dean - Professor Manson Fok, whose support for medical technology and research was witnessing new ways to fight COVID-19: subway sanitizing robots, pediatric clinical studies in the journal Nature Communications, and new AI monitoring algorithms that can detect lung deterioration in patients within 20 seconds.

Of course, much of this good news is seldom heard in America - which rages with both contagion and finger-pointing today. Meanwhile, certain hysterical pundits, shameless news outlets, social media freaks, and deranged politicians are leading scared and confused people to lethal outcomes in the US. 

It's terrifying my mother, frustrating my father, unnerving my sisters, and I'm hearing now from long lost cousins from Texas to the Netherlands about what's really going on.

And now Macao and the Chinese mainland are managing a second wave with clear public safety messages, medical supplies and legions of heroic healthcare workers. I'm safe, probably in one of the safest places in the world. My wife is even safer - and Chongqing borders Hubei. 

This long-distance romance with my wife is the main thing that keeps me going as I whittle away the hours in the quietude of Macao's old sleepy village life.

The author is a healthcare editor and professor of communications. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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