Sunday, February 9, 2020 (Beijing Time)
Sunny -13 °
The first thing I did when I woke up was to turn to the WeChat app and find my younger son’s classmates on my phone. Sure enough, the headteacher had been collecting information about the temperature of each student today. I copied the last message with a title: students with normal temperature before I typed the number 40 first as well as my child’s full name. After I clicked the input key, I felt relieved, too because there were forty students in my son’s class. I checked and my son’s class was so far so good. It was 11:03 am. Nearly three hours had passed since the headteacher began collecting information.
Getting up very late is almost the norm for the past two weeks. And I should admit that the past two weeks are special since it is not only the time period that people celebrate Spring Festival in China but also a time period that Zhong Nanshan, a Chinese pulmonologist and high-level expert of China’s National Health Commission, called for people to stay at home to prevent the NCP virus.
The action of operating the phone woke up my son. He is 12 years old, and these days, he insists on sleeping in our master bedroom instead of his own bedroom. I think he’s trying to get some sense of security. He has a slight cough these days. I guess it is due to the air pollution caused by setting off firecrackers outside, which is an important custom during the Spring Festival. Thus, with him sleeping between his father and me, I can also keep an eye on him at night. For example, when he kicks off the quilt at night, I can pull it back quickly for him. I am not a particularly good sleeper, especially when I have something on my mind.
A few minutes later, my husband, who was sleeping on the other side of the bed, woke up. After he looked at his cell phone, he asked me, “I am supposed to return to work tomorrow and the four people in the office are required to take turns on duty in the office. Mr. Tang chose Monday and Tuesday, Mr. Wang chose Tuesday. There are still Thursday and Friday for me and Mr. Zhang. What day do you think I should go? Friday, I said. There are not enough masks in my home, I would like to have some extra days to get some more masks if possible. So Friday would be a good day if it is allowed.
All right. He answered and typed on his phone.
I opened the curtains. The sun was shining brightly since it was nearly noon at that moment. I also opened the windows, and the winter wind rushed into the room, fresh and cold.
My husband went to the kitchen to cook and I continued to check the news on my phone. The confirmed cases of NCP in my province of Liaoning is 105. On the epidemic NCP analysis map, in just two days, the colour of my province has changed from light red to dark red. (According to the legend, if the number of NCP in a province is between 0 and 10, the color of the province will be pink, 10-100 is light red, 100-1000 is dark red, and above 1000 is black.) Click on the dot next to the name of my province, and the number of NCP for each city would appear. Shenyang has twenty-six confirmed cases. But a few days ago, the local media reported that Shenyang, the capital city in Liaoning with fairly advanced medical system, had received confirmed cases from several smaller cities around it, indicating that there are more than twenty-six NCP patients in Shenyang.
There are some other statistics that I check every day, which would be on the local news report instead of the map.
According to Liaoning Daily news on WeChat, a total of 1,944 close contacts of the confirmed cases have been found in Liaoning, of which 1,133 have been removed for medical observation, 788 are under medical observation and 43 are being traced.
Forty-three people are being traced. I repeated this statistic in my mind.
That number had been zero for the previous two days, but with the emergence of new confirmed cases, it means that there are new people infected. There will be those who are identified and those who cannot be tracked down will be listed as being traced.
Where are these people? Could these people be found? If one of those forty-three people were infected before he or she was found, would he or she spread the NCP virus to another group of people unconsciously? These unknowns inevitably make me feel nervous.
Next, I started browsing Sina Weibo (the Chinese version of Twitter), and a heated discussion caught my eyes. One man, who has 300,000 followers, was asking people to forward one of his suggestions: current medical resources in Wuhan mainly focus on the NCP, but patients with other diseases cannot get medical treatment in a timely manner. I hope these patients can be transported to other provinces to get treated. Although people with the NCP in Wuhan can be taken to other cities to seek medical treatment, they are rejected by authorities because of the stigma that these patients will carry the virus with them. For people with urgent medical needs, we can’t just watch them die in despair in Wuhan. So I begged all of my followers on Weibo to forward this plead for those patients: if people with ailments need treatment, such as dialysis or chemotherapy, please do not prevent them from seeing the doctors there.
By the time I read the message, the appeal had been forwarded more than 2,000 times. And among the 1000+ comments, there were those for and those against.
How do we cope with all this? The medical forces of other provinces have entered Wuhan. Even today, a team of over 1000 doctors and nurses from Liaoning arrived in Wuhan to help contain the outbreak. The same help is coming from the other provinces as well. For each province, the number of doctors and nurses can only maintain the basic medical function of a city. It’s true that there has been a steady increase in the number of patients recovering from the NCP while the increase in new patients appears to be slowing. But we can only express cautious optimism as cities are slowly returning to its normal routines with people coming back to work and people returning to their cities. The travel rush and inevitable gatherings from the Lunar New Year can bring risks of getting affected. Provinces outside of Wuhan also need to pass temperature and medical checks before they can resume their lives.
But what about the patients that the Weibo man suggested? According to the current situation in Wuhan, if they can not get medical treatment in time, tragedy will occur.
In my head, the two opinions started fighting each other, which was almost the routine state these days.
Actually, I have many things to do. The one-year online Writer’s Studio course I registered at SFU has entered the second semester. I have many books to read, many lectures to listen to and many assignments to complete. Work, work, work, I keep telling me myself. But the truth is I spend most of my time going through all the news about the NCP, trying to read as much as I can and understand as much as I can. Emotions flooded me. I will stay up all night crying over the death of Li Wenliang, the whistle blower, and all the people died in this Anti-virus battle. I also feel so proud of my country for the rapid completion of the construction of Huoshenshan and Leishenshan Hospitals in Wuhan, a capacity of 2,600 beds in total and more than 100,000 square-meters of medical facilities in just ten days.
Apart from the basic needs of life, eating and sleeping, I spend all my time experiencing a variance of emotions.
After my husband answered a phone call, he told me to get ready. I knew it must be from the supermarket. We ordered some vegetables and fruits from the supermarket mobile app yesterday. Ordering food and commodities online and have them delivered to our doors is part of life for most people these days. People stay indoors as much as possible now.
I put on my coat and trousers and got the mask and gloves dried on the window sill. Masks now are increasingly harder to buy. The only five we have now was bought by my eldest son when the smog was particularly severe a few years ago. Experts advised the public to make full use of the masks. They taught people several disinfection methods. I tried to sterilize a used mask over a burning fire, but the mask quickly burned. After that, I just washed used masks with water and dry them on the balcony. There is plenty of sunshine on the balcony. I just hope the ultraviolet rays in the sunshine can sterilize.
I was just all dressed up after the delivery man called to say that he was arriving.
I pressed the button of the elevator with my gloved hand. I went inside after the elevator came up. There was the familiar strong smell of disinfectant in the elevator. This is an additional service provided by the Property Management Company during the Anti-virus period. The smell reassured me.
The elevator didn’t take long to reach downstairs. I got out of the elevator and arrive at the door of the building. Through the glass door, I saw a man wearing a mask outside. I opened the door and he sidled in, hurriedly and lowering his head. I didn’t have a chance to identify who he was. In special times, not saying hello to the neighbor has became something everyone can accept.
I went out the entrance of the housing estate. The community I live in is a small community, so it is not too far from the one gate of the building to another. I looked out through the iron bars. On the right hand side, the security guard of the community sat behind a desk and was measuring the temperature of a man who wanted to enter the housing estate. The security guard of the community held the temperature gun to the man’s forehead with five centimeters between both men. On the left, there were some men squatting. And a man in heavy winter clothing sat on an electric bike.
I asked loudly: Is there a delivery man?
I am. One man stood up, lifting up a plastic bag beside him. When walking toward me, he confirmed again by asking me: what building are you in?
I said, building two.
He was relieved and quickened his pace. Just in a few seconds, he stood in front of me.
I forgot to take my gate card and couldn’t open the iron gate. I didn’t want to keep him waiting for so long. So I said, “Just leave the things outside the door. I will manage to get them later on when somebody comes in.”
At this point, the security guard completed the task of measuring the temperature. He stood up and looked at me, “I’ll open the door for you.”
I said thank you.
The guard opened the door and the man who had taken his temperature sidled in. The delivery man handed me the plastic bag full of items.
“You’re welcome,” he said, and although he was wearing a mask, I could hear the sincerity in his voice.
After the deliver man left, I stood in front of the entrance and asked the doorman, can I go to the grocery store right beside the entrance? He said yes.
I quickly turned to enter the grocery store. At first glance, I saw the sign on the door: no entry without wearing a mask.
But in the grocery store, a man without a mask on his face was walking to the cashier. I passed him and hurried to the back of the store to find things I wanted: large bottles of soft drinks, too heavy for a delivery man from a distant supermarket to carry over.
As I was looking for the drink, I heard the cashier lady said in an unhappy voice: “Next time, if you don’t wear a mask, don’t come into my store.’
I didn’t hear the man’s answer.
After a while, I heard another man’s voice: “ What did he buy?”
The mask-less man had already left. The man asking the question was the shop owner.
The cashier said that men bought two ice cream bars. “Every time he came, he just bought ice cream bars.” The cashier paused and went on saying: “Maybe I should lock up the ice cream counter.”
I didn’t hear the shop owner’s answer.
I found the things I wanted to buy. I went to the cashier. I scanned the code to pay by using my phone and left the store.
At the gate of the community, I picked up the plastic bag beside the security guard. Then I thanked him and asked him to help me open the iron gate for me again. He didn’t measure my temperature. That’s why I asked his permission to go to the grocery store. I needed him to know that I had completed a short activity just under his nose. I didn’t want my temperature measured by the temperature gun used for everyone. Experts say the NCP virus will live on objects’ surface also. So I think it’s dangerous to use one tool to take everyone’s temperature. For this reason, I hardly go to the supermarket to buy food anymore. About a week ago, every supermarket measured people’s temperature as required by the government’s new regulation.
My husband opened the door for me. He rinsed both bags with the boiled water he had prepared in advance. It is said that the virus will die at 52 degrees Celcius.
Inside the room, the windows were open, which is for the purpose to increase the flow of air and reduce the concentration level of potential viruses.
I went to the guest bathroom just on the left-hand side of the door. I washed my face, my mask, and my gloves. Then I took off my clothes and hung them in the doorway. I went back to the bathroom and washed my hands again.
In the kitchen, I took out a pan of hot water that I cooked before I went downstairs. I will use this water to mop the floor. Every time I mopped, white steam rose.
At the same time, the husband was taking the cooked food to the dining room table.
My younger son went to invite his grandmother to dinner. My mother-in-law is in her 80’s. After breaking her bones in a fall during a rainstorm a few years ago, she disliked going outside even though she has almost fully recovered.
Before the NCP virus had spread, my husband and I encouraged her to go out. Now, we stopped doing that. According to the experts, there is no particularly good way to deal with this pneumonia. The only feasible way is to isolate everyone in the room and suffocate the virus as much as possible.
However, I felt really worried while I was eating lunch. I was worried about the new “test” that everyone is expected to start tomorrow, the big “test” that Wuhan is facing now.
Could I expect a better tomorrow?
Nancy Jin emigrated from the city of Shenyang to Vancouver in 2008. She obtained a Master’s Degree in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) at the University of Salford in Britain. She has taught English writing at Shenyang Architecture University as well as in Language Centers in Vancouver. In 2019, she became a student of the Simon Fraser University (SFU) Writer’s Studio online program in the non-fiction genre group. She is now working on her first novel, a work that reflects the motif of being “bound” and restricted, held back from self-actualization through the exploration of the life of her grandmother, a 93-year-old woman with bound feet as well as the lives of other women in my family. Nancy is currently living in Shenyang.