By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
First, the bad. Leaders, who played down the seriousness of the coronavirus, are now paying the price, not just in the high number of citizens’ death and infections, but possibly risking their own life like England’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
He has repeatedly resisted locking down the country until March 24. At his own peril, he visited hospitals and even shook hands with coronavirus patients. Does he think he’s immortal? Why is it that he hasn’t learned about this highly-contagious disease which has killed many in England’s neighboring countries, including Italy, France, and Spain? Why is he so arrogant or insane that he thinks he knows more than other leaders and scientists?
It goes for President Trump, too, who has resisted a national lockdown by speaking lightly that COVID-19 would go away in February. He has not learned from what happened in Wuhan, China. His ego controls his reasoning that the United States is far more superior in overcoming the virus than China. Had he not delayed telling people to wear masks, buying ventilators, developing test kits, and locking down the country, we could have avoided countless tragedies. The number of deaths is staggering. The Boston Globe stated it well in a March 30 editorial. “The president has blood on his hands… a president unfit for a pandemic.”
If most of the Republican governors, including Florida, Alabama, Texas, and Georgia, issued stay-at-home orders in March instead of April, the number of cases might be drastically different. Talk about visionary leaders who understand that health is wealth, it’s none of the above.
If leaders are not taking COVID-19 seriously, how do you expect people to do the same? Many have been ignoring social distancing. Many don’t understand that standing six feet apart from other people is crucial to stop the spread. People cut in front or behind me in grocery stores and sidewalks. When I walk further away, they walk closer—Asians and non-Asians. At the cashier’s line, my husband had to say to the person right behind him, “You are standing too close,” even though social-distancing signs are all over the store.
Even my family practices social distancing. My son and I haven’t hugged for over a month. We have not dined together with him and his wife for weeks even though she cooks us lunch two to three times a week, bringing us pho, beef noodles, home-made pizzas, and pork buns.
In Toronto, enforcing social distancing goes to new heights. For instance, a cop can issue citations for two or more passengers in the same car if they do not live in the same household. Perhaps, the United States needs a similar law.
One night in late February, I was talking to my 88-year-old aunt in Hong Kong. She was like a little girl giggling with joy, saying how lucky she was.
“You got a pot of gold?” I joked with her. She had been waiting in line with her maid in a supermarket for more than an hour…
“I bought four bags of toilet paper,” she replied. Would Americans hoard toilet paper? I wondered. No way!
Man, I was wrong! Did you watch the ugliness of two women fighting over toilet paper in a supermarket? This is America.
Recently, some Oregonians dialed 911 because they ran out of toilet paper, according to a report on NPR. A Costco employee shouted some really hot news to a crowd outside waiting to get in, not about hot dogs being out. Instead, she said, “All toilet paper is sold out.”
And I echoed my friend’s words, “No, I don’t follow the toilet paper craze.” Just buy enough for yourself. 90% of America’s toilet paper is made in America. Currently, there is no shortage of toilet paper in America, a spokesman for Scott Toilet Paper said.
While talking to my cousin in New Jersey, I learned how some grocery stores implemented new practices to avoid hoarding. Customers cannot buy two packs of the same item. For instance, you are not allowed to buy two packages of chicken, just one.
The terrifying: Are you next?
Being fearful of COVID-19 can drive you crazy and do stupid things! Have you ever worried that you or your loved ones might be next?
In early March, a weird headache suddenly struck me, and chills just magnified through my spine. I rarely have headaches. But when I do, it’s usually on my forehead. That time, the pain was inside my head, and it intensified after dinner.
My God, was it COVID-19? Should I tell my husband? But I didn’t want to scare him. He will be surprised when he reads this blog. Should I take a Tylenol? We didn’t have any at home, and still don’t. Should I take my temperature? What for? Had I found out that I had it, it might ruin my sleep. I took a step back to seek clarity.
“No, no fever,” I self-diagnosed as I put my palm on my head. “I am not coughing, and there’s no difficulty in breathing.” My strategy was to calm down, think, and breathe. A good night’s sleep was my best defense. I drank lots of hot water to make sure I was hydrated. After my treadmill exercise, I didn’t know why my thoughts turned to the Diamond Princess cruise ship passengers and crew. How dreadful it must have been to be locked inside for days! How fortunate I was to be at home when I was not well! That gratitude enabled me to sleep soundly. Without taking any medicine, my headache faded in the morning when I woke up.
So if you are not feeling well, don’t get yourself worked up. Just calm down and analyze your symptoms, and do your best to make yourself relax. Panic is not a strategy. In fact, it will make you more sick. Planning is what you need. How do you quarantine yourself if you are infected? Who can help you and take care of you?
Last week, two good Samaritans wanted to donate masks to the Asian Weekly. Initially, I declined. We have bought masks for ourselves and our employees. My oldest son, who works in Hong Kong, mailed us two boxes of masks.
Then, I said yes to the International Chinese Christian Church of Tacoma for a valid reason.
“We want to send you some beautiful and washable face masks (made by our church ladies) to you and your staff,” wrote Belinda Louie, a leader of the Church. Free recyclable masks! I have been recycling my disposal masks. I limit myself to one mask a week before discarding it. Masks are sort of pricy, about 70 cents each.
We provide masks to employees when they request it. We have also provided plastic gloves to our delivery persons for more than a decade.
Louie said they are making and wearing these masks so they can “save the commercial ones for the first responders and medical providers at the front line.” Sensible!
The church members researched and bought materials online. The fabrics are well-chosen and elegant. They have different sizes, too, for men, women, and two small sizes for kids. Well, the smallest kid mask fits me best. Each costs $5. To get the masks, email Belinda Louie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Philanthropists Jerry and Charlene Lee often support the community, not just through donations, but by inspiring their friends. When they found out that Asian restaurants have been impacted by the virus in mid-March, he organized groups of friends to dine in the Chinatown-International District. He asked his friends to order takeout or buy restaurant certificates. Now with the shutdown, the Lees donate money to help volunteers Mimi Gan and Katherine Cheng to do good for the community.
Cheng works with other volunteers to get meals out to the front line caregivers. She wrote in an email, “One is in progress to coordinate restaurants and their capacity for making meals to match with hospitals and clinics. It’s to schedule them all so there’s no overlap in delivering food to the front line workers and spreading it out so the food is delivered at times that are needed. In addition, giving restaurants the ability to schedule their employees so they can keep some of them employed.”
Cheng is also working to raise funds to manufacture personal protective equipment locally.
“We launched with the King County Medical Society and found a local manufacturer who is hiring laid-off tailors from the ballet, the opera, and other retailers. We have bought certified materials for the masks, caps, and gowns and delivered the first 5,000 masks last week.”
Other groups have bought masks from China to donate them to local hospitals. The Seattle Chinese Cultural Theater, made up of 26 members, donated 2,000 masks to Overlake Hospital. Headquartered in Seattle, the nonprofit global health organization, SightLife, in collaboration with the Xi’an Eye Bank Hospital in China has shipped nearly 5,000 surgical masks to Kaiser Hospital outside of San Francisco. This donation complements SightLife’s donation earlier this month of $2,500-worth of personal protective equipment to Seattle’s Harborview/UW Medicine and Swedish First Hill.
Coronavirus has brought out the best and the worst of human nature. A round of applause for our benefactors. Thank you, thank you, and thank you.
Do you have projects to make a difference in the community during COVID-19? Send us your ideas.
Assunta can be reached at email@example.com.