Coronavirus has interrupted this month’s regularly scheduled program so this blog post doesn’t deal with custom Android tablets, custom Android manufacturing, or anything custom Android hardware related. It’s time to address the elephant in the room. I hope you’ve been making the most of our new world order now that a microscopic virus is in charge. All things considered, I’ve been lucky over the past few months. When coronavirus panic reached its peak in China I was in Canada, watching from a distance, while getting daily updates from colleagues, partners, and friends in China going through the trying times. After China, the news started focusing on Italy and Iran; also distant realities. Fast forward to March 11th, North American professional sports leagues suspended their seasons. The next day Montreal, where I was, shut down public recreational facilities and on March 15th many private businesses where people congregate were mandated to close.
All of a sudden the foreign news didn’t seem so far away.
As the quality of life started dropping and fear started rising in North America I could see the opposite happening in China. It seemed like a good time to head back. One day after returning to China the government closed the borders to non-Chinese, Taiwanese, Hong Kong, and Macau passport holders to reduce the chances of new infections entering the country. Upon arriving in China all the passengers on my flight were brought to a 14-day hotel based quarantine. The experience started off badly, prompting a fellow passenger to report on the situation in an article posted on Weibo (a Chinese social media platform). Shortly after that article went online the government took notice and brought in new management which did a great job running things.
The new quarantine management conducted themselves in a way that has been consistent with many people in China: realizing the difficulties of this situation they were willing to endure hardship to overcome this common enemy. They took favoritism off the table. There were no shortcuts. The only option was to follow protocol, and since we were locked up they went to great lengths to do this in a caring way. In our quarantine, there was at least one case of the virus found. Details were kept confidential. While it’s not clear how people with the virus are treated it seems that their safe recovery is taken seriously as is the health of people around them, even if this means limiting individual freedoms. The approach has been working.
Since the virus’ outbreak started China has become one of the leading countries in terms of timely recovery. Except for (and because of) preventative measures like the omnipresent masks and body temperature checks daily life has returned to about 85% normal across China, with the exception of Wuhan (where the virus started) and the rest of Hubei province. But how they handled the outbreak changed significantly from its early days, which may be why the world is suffering so much right now. Not long before turning things around, as Beijing has admitted, the government decided to ignore the problem when doctors first raised concern. For humanity’s future reference it would be great to know why warning signs from astute front line doctors in Wuhan were silenced when they clearly expressed concern in the early days. When they voiced early warnings the government silenced their concerns by forced admission of ‘rumormongering’ and disciplinary reprimand. Unfortunately, the virus impact became louder than their rumor-mongering voices. The virus would have been identified and controlled earlier if these doctors got the respect they deserved, but controlled to what extent is difficult to predict. Either way, it’s worth noting the efforts they made, risks they took, and discipline they (shouldn’t have) had to endure.
Before the virus hit the US several countries had already begun experiencing devastation from downplaying or not knowing the risk. Morbid circumstances in hard struck Italy and Iran combined with warnings from medical experts were not enough to caution America’s leaders into taking necessary and obvious precautions. Instead, the US President and many top political leaders misled people and delayed taking appropriate actions for weeks, exponentially multiplying the problem. Several Senators sold a large number of personal stock investments before disclosing the severity of the problem to the American public. Both American and Chinese leaders willfully ignored crucial warning signs, but America’s leaders did this in spite of reasons for concern that they personally acted on while publicly telling a different story.
Once the Chinese government took notice of the situation they instituted swift and clear restrictions on peoples’ movement in order to control the spread of infections. The prompt and hard response had a positive effect. Within a month of limiting travel and human interaction, the number of new infections subsided enough for society to start, slowly, opening up again. While cultures and the way people around the world do things differently, there are only a few viable ways to successfully deal with a virus. China created a model that seems to work. Keep people away from each other as much as possible for as long as necessary to know who’s infected, treat them in isolation, and, after a period where very few new cases emerge, allow unaffected people to cautiously and vigilantly resume their normal lives. The US started following this playbook with positive results, but now several government leaders are questioning whether to continue following that model. Because many states are seeing reductions in infections (and also because people want life to return to normal) some people think it’s time to start removing social limitations. The reduced number of new cases shows the effectiveness of limited social interaction and the use of Personal Protective Equipment (‘PPE’). Changing these policies will lead to more explosive outbreaks like before those measures were put in place.
Two days before my quarantine ended a doctor, covered in hardcore PPE, came to my room to administer a follow-up coronavirus test (the first one happened upon arriving at the airport). After 14 days isolated inside a hotel room, 2 negative test results, and daily temperature checks my quarantine period ended.
I made the most of my time in quarantine by getting work done, doing daily workouts, and keeping in touch with people. The time went much faster than anticipated because I made the most of the experience, received great care, and believed in the process.
While it’s impractical for everyone in the world to stay locked away for 2 weeks, people either go through some sort of isolation period, slowing the virus’ spread, or stay active, ballooning the number of cases and possibly preventable deaths. The more intense the isolation the quicker it finishes. Day to day life in China continues to improve as the number of new cases stays low. Before reaching key recovery milestones reducing protective measures gives the virus more opportunity to spread. Protesting, even equipped with firearms, as recently done around the US, will not stop the course of nature. If people do not respect the facts of nature, health and economic damage will continue.
Like any challenge the events surrounding the coronavirus outbreak will have positive impacts on many levels. On an individual level, most of us have had to isolate to some extent. This gives us the chance to get caught up on work, start new projects, learn new things, reconnect with old friends, and so many other commonly overlooked opportunities that don’t fit into our normal schedules. The isolation and lifestyle restrictions also remind us to appreciate so many freedoms we took for granted. On a macro level, the pandemic reminds us to focus on facts and expert advice, not letting political or personal preferences get in the way of reality. More specifically it provides a lesson about how to treat the threat of global warming. Humans have done a great job creating our reality, but nature has parameters we must work within. While we should be able to get through the pandemic global warming won’t be as forgiving. Treating the risk of global warming the same way we should have treated the risk of coronavirus will prevent a much bigger and difficult to control the force of nature.
These past few months have provided a breather for the environment. Animals are returning to places they were unable to survive. Clean air has returned to polluted areas. As we become better prepared to avoid future pandemics or other natural disasters we must put aside differences to better work as a human team. Every person (who survives) and society as a whole have different things to gain from coronavirus lessons. I would love to know what value you’ve derived from the experience.
My biggest hope is that we’re able to learn these lessons before the current situation gets any worse. Sometimes the most effective lessons are the ones that are the hardest to learn.
I have faith that the human race can come out of this better off than we went into it. Good luck to you and yours on achieving the most personal and communal growth possible without having to make the lessons any harder than necessary.