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Home Health How is the US Coronavirus Epidemic Exactly? We Interview Overseas Chinese

How is the US Coronavirus Epidemic Exactly? We Interview Overseas Chinese

The continuously updated monitoring data show that as of 12:00 on March 24th, Beijing time, the number of confirmed cases of novel coronavirus pneumonia in the United States reached 46,442. Two days ago, the number was 32,717 cases. This means that 13,725 new cases were added in the United States within two days, which is currently the country with the fastest rate of new confirmed cases worldwide.

According to various sources, the United States is currently unable to test all people with symptoms due to insufficient nucleic acid detection reagents. Many people speculate that according to the current situation in the United States, the number of confirmed diagnoses may soon exceed that of Italy.

Will the US become the new epicenter of the global epidemic? Under the federal system, what are the different prevention and control methods adopted by the states? In response to these questions, we interviewed 4 Chinese and overseas Chinese who have lived in the United States for a long time, and they told us the true situation of their personal experience in the local area.

Johns Hopkins University Epidemic Surveillance System
Johns Hopkins University Epidemic Surveillance System

Part One

Andrew Cheung is a local media person who has lived in the United States for 25 years and has lived in New York for 10 years. He has been following the New York outbreak recently. He told us that more than 20,000 cases were diagnosed in New York State, which is the most severely affected area in the United States, and the situation is becoming more and more serious.

Andrew said that the latest situation is that New York State has declared a state of a major disaster. The state has “closed the city” at 8 pm on Sunday (22nd). Except for supermarkets and pharmacies, all businesses and stores are closed. People live in isolation and work at home, and it is forbidden to gather together.

However, the governor of New York states that this is not called “lockdown”, it is called “New York State on Pause”. In this mode, people can also go out to buy food and medicine, as well as walk and walk the dog, but need to maintain a social distance of 6 feet (1.8 meters).

New York City, under New York State, is currently diagnosed with 12,000 people, making it the most severely affected city in the state. Citizens have seen a large number of US Army vehicles entering New York City. According to media reports, the military will take over multiple hotels, university dormitories, and stadiums, and plans to transform it into a temporary medical place similar to a “cabin hospital.”

New York Mayor, Bai Sihao announced that four temporary medical facilities (including Javits, the largest conference center in New York) will be put into use in the near future. In addition to the elimination of unnecessary surgery and the addition of tents in hospitals, 8,000 beds will be added recently.

The federal government has also announced that it will send the US Army Comfort Hospital ship to New York to respond to the outbreak. Andrew said that there are 1,000 wards on the ship, but this hospital ship is not for the treatment of patients with novel coronavirus pneumonia and needs to be arranged and commissioned, so when it can be officially operated, the media in New York is watching.

Times Square, New York, March 23 (source: Reuters)
Times Square, New York, March 23 (source: Reuters)

According to Andrew’s observation, the formerly prosperous Manhattan is now inaccessible on the streets, and pedestrian traffic has decreased significantly. Some supermarkets were even robbed of disinfectant supplies and even toilet paper. He used to go to a supermarket that closed at 10 pm, but now it ’s closed at 4 pm.

A friend from a local hospital told Andrew that many New York City hospitals have experienced a shortage of medical supplies. The Mayor of New York also said at a news conference that if the epidemic is not effectively controlled, New York City’s medical supplies will be exhausted in 2-3 weeks, and New York will need a lot of supplies from now on.

Regarding masks, New York authorities have stipulated that their price increase cannot exceed 10%. But the reality is that because the supply is in short supply, the price of masks has soared, and a $ 90 box of N95 masks have appeared on Amazon.com.

Part Two

Alexander Chan, who has lived in the United States for 11 years and currently lives in Irvine, Southern California, said that Irvine is now basically “closed.” Although no one was forced to isolate their homes, public places were closed and there were very few pedestrians or vehicles on the street.

Previously, the city government stipulated that the party could not exceed ten people. As a result, someone brought a child to play in the park and was fined $ 400. In addition, local officials “terrorized” and said that 56% of people are expected to be infected with the novel coronavirus in the next 8 weeks. After that, everyone became more “conscious” and did not go out much.

Regarding case testing, the House of Representatives passed a related bill on March 15th and no charges for testing for the novel coronavirus. Learning Korean experience in California, a Drive-Thru test point will be set up near CVS pharmacy, Wal-Mart supermarket, etc. The test results will be available as soon as 24 hours.

US “Get Off the Car” test point (source: Reuters)
The US “Get Off the Car” test point (source: Reuters)

Alexander said that there has been a shortage of masks in the local area, and the Chinese around him are basically obtained by sending masks in China or reselling them in the Chinese circle. On Amazon, the N95 mask he ordered two months ago has not arrived yet.

In Alexander’s view, his neighbors and friends are not very worried about the epidemic. People are most worried about economic issues, such as fear that many people may go bankrupt and lose their jobs under the impact of multiple meltdowns in US stocks.

But for Hannah Zhou, who lives in “Silicon Valley” in northern California and Santa Clara, one of the six counties in the Bay Area, the epidemic is her biggest concern right now. Although California has more than 1,700 confirmed cases, not as many as in New York and Washington, the patients are mainly concentrated in the north. Santa Clara currently has more than 200 confirmed cases.

What worries Hannah most is the lack of testing reagents and no one knows the actual infection. She checked online and found that only 26,000 people in California have been tested, of which 12,000 are waiting for the test results, and nearly 80,000 people have been tested in New York State. She thinks that maybe the number of diagnoses in New York State is so high because of the tests.

Hannah even suspected that maybe she had the virus now. Previously, due to her work relationship, she needed to travel to and from the offices in San Francisco and Santa Clara. Secondly, on the eve of the announcement of the “home asylum” order, everyone went to the supermarket to buy it, and she also went there, she had no way to keep the distance. Although she wore a mask herself in both cases, the native Americans were barely wearing it.

She said the “home asylum” order refers to the “shelter in place” policy announced by six counties in the Bay Area on March 16. It’s similar to New York’s “pause mode”. It also shuts down businesses and public places and works at home, but you can go out to buy food, buy medicine and walk your dog.

U.S. doctors call for Home isolation of citizens (photo courtesy of interviewees)
U.S. doctors call for Home isolation of citizens (photo courtesy of interviewees)

Now, she observes that native Americans are starting to wear masks, but many people still do not wear them, partly because they can’t buy masks. When her colleague was still saying “This is just flu”, the Chinese in the Bay Area had already taken action and wore masks to go to work. By the middle of this month, when her US colleagues reacted and realized the seriousness of the situation, masks were no longer available on the market.

She also discovered that foreigners would grab toilet paper, as it is said on the Internet. In that supermarket rush, she didn’t intend to rush but found that everyone else was rushing to loot toilet paper, and she was afraid, so she took a few more bags. It turned out that her decision was right because the next week she went to the supermarket and found that the toilet paper area was out of stock.

Hannah believes that the Bay Area is not necessary and cannot implement Chinese-style closed management. Her area is basically a single house, there is no Chinese-style residential area, and the distance between the houses is relatively long. I did not intend to find someone. Now I can’t meet my neighbors when I go out.

However, there are still loopholes for prevention and control. Last weekend, she was going to relax at a nearby beach, but after driving past, she found that there were many people on the beach and no one cares about it, and she was frightened to turn around and go home.

A supermarket in New York was snapped up (Photo courtesy of respondents)

Part Three

Chinese Ryan Wong is an engineer at Apple Inc. He lives in San Francisco, only 70 kilometers from Silicon Valley. On March 16, San Francisco also announced a “home asylum” order, becoming the first major American city to announce a similar “city closure” policy.

Ryan said that San Francisco was one of the earliest cases of U.S. cities. The population base of the entire Bay Area is large. Once the virus spreads, it is difficult to control. Especially San Francisco has a large number of homeless people and poor living conditions. It is the most vulnerable group. If the city is not “closed,” the epidemic will put great pressure on the medical system.

Most Americans around Ryan were very alert at first and felt that the epidemic didn’t matter. The turning point occurred when news spread by celebrities from all walks of life exposed, and everyone really took it seriously. Citizens are now better off complying with the ban, and few people violate the rules, but San Francisco does not cut off traffic to other cities, so there is a risk of case input and output.

San Francisco on March 17 (source: AFP)
San Francisco on March 17 (source: AFP)

In his view, the US government has generally not paid enough attention to the epidemic this time and has responded slowly. During the outbreak of China, there was not much preparation for prevention and control of materials in advance; personnel exchanges with Europe were equally frequent, and corresponding prevention and control measures were not taken; when the epidemic first developed in several large cities, it was not taken in time. The “cities closure” measures have exacerbated the spread of the epidemic.

Ryan is not confident about the current situation of the United States ‘epidemic prevention and control, especially when he sees US politicians’ aggressive panic policies. He believes that if the United States does not take stronger measures to control the development of the epidemic, large-scale outbreaks can be foreseen.

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Nancy Huang
I'm a journalist in Shenzhen, China. I have been working in several news agencies in China since 2008.

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