By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Renowned journalist Bob Woodward’s book, “Rage,” has shown that President Trump lied about COVID-19. In February, Trump told Woodward on tape that he was briefed on Jan. 28 that COVID-19 was a deadly disease, but he downplayed it when he talked to the public several times later.
With or without reading the book, I knew then we wouldn’t, couldn’t, and shouldn’t treat the coronavirus like the flu. Trump’s lies don’t make any difference in the way I think, live, or work to prevent the virus. My husband and I agree that we wouldn’t have changed a thing in our home since the lockdown. Although we wish COVID-19 would disappear, we know realistically that it is not going to happen soon.
Since March, we have treated the virus seriously from the time Gov. Jay Inslee implemented sheltering-in to social distancing, to wearing masks. It’s not that we are smarter than the general public. It’s who we are, where we came from, and the experiences of my immigrant coworkers and the Chinese community, which taught us valuable lessons from the spread of SARS in China in 2003.
At first, not all my employees believed that wearing masks were effective in fighting the virus. It also became a contentious issue in my office. Who could blame one of my staff members when even U.S. health officials dismissed wearing masks earlier? Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Roberts tweeted in February that people should stop buying masks, but later reversed his message. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, also gave mixed messages. Fauci changed his message only on June 16 in a network interview, telling people to wear masks and not earlier because there weren’t enough supplies for protective equipment, including masks, for the health professionals then.
Non-Asians jeered Asian immigrants wearing masks. If they only knew what we went through in our native lands. When SARS spread in China in March 2003, I was in Hong Kong. People traveled freely between the Hong Kong and China borders, and even more so during the Lunar New Year. The Chinese government issued no warning. At the time, it was also difficult for anyone to know that it was such a contagious disease. Then, SARS spread to Hong Kong. People didn’t know what it was until one severe case spread to over 300 people. A person from Shenzhen, China, infected with SARS, visited his brother who lived in Amoy Gardens, a 35-story apartment building in Hong Kong, according to the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy. At first, it infected 107 residents. Then, it spread to more people, including doctors and nurses who treated the patient, according to the Journal of Royal
Society of Medicine.
It happened in other Asian countries as well, several got infected with the disease, and all traced back their origins to one person. These news stories were exploding all over Asia.
My family members and my husband’s family were in Hong Kong. For months, they were afraid, self-quarantined, and avoided going out. Every building was being sanitized and workers spent much of their time cleaning public spaces. The government had issued lockdowns to those buildings with infected residents. I could have been infected at the time, as none of us took any precautions. It was when I left Hong Kong that we learned that the disease called SARS was invading other Asian cities. It sent chills down my spine when I read two weeks later back home in America how Hong Kong doctors and nurses got sick with SARS.
Asian countries have not forgotten what happened to them during SARS. I have not forgotten what happened to my family during SARS—in tremendous fear, anxiety, and stress. Hong Kong people have learned from SARS, and applied their knowledge for COVID-19. The first thing everyone did was wear masks to protect themselves and other people, and social distance. To stop the spread is the goal. Now, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, and Vietnam have much fewer cases of infections and deaths than the United States because their citizens knew the viciousness of the virus, and took extensive precautions early. Because these countries know how to trace from the origin to the spread effectively and efficiently, they are able to contain the spread.
When COVID-19 first started in our state in February, my staff member Nancy, an immigrant from Taiwan and the first one in our office to wear a mask, said she would change her work schedule as she was concerned about the virus. Instead of beginning her day before 9 a.m., she would arrive after 10:30 a.m. and leave at 3 p.m. to avoid peak-hour crowds on the Light Rail. A few weeks later, she requested to come in to work on Saturday alone.
I asked Nancy why she was extra cautious. “China has implemented tough policy and lockdowns at Wuhan, the whole city, to fight the virus. My friends and relatives in Taiwan have warned me not to be reckless. COVID-19 is a cruel disease. And I have learned from other people’s experiences.”
Strange, my American-born son has treated COVID-19 as an enemy. He kept asking, “Why are our employees still in the office?” John has researched so much on COVID and safety guidelines that I consulted him how to implement safety procedures in our office.
So March 2 was the first issue we published where the majority of Seattle Chinese Post (SCP) and all Northwest Asian Weekly’s employees worked from home. On March 17, the SCP team met in our office for a short meeting to improve our working-at-home and communication process. I am grateful even though we haven’t seen each other for months, we can collaborate beautifully and happily.
Being a journalist
Another reason why I didn’t listen to Trump’s COVID-19 perspectives has to do with my job. We journalists can’t take things at face value. We ask questions, verify facts, and study all the implications of the issue. We report both sides of the issue. Often, more than one side to enhance understanding of the topic.
For Trump to say that we shouldn’t be worrying about COVID-19, can he explain the high numbers of deaths and infections in America? It’s record-breaking. It has killed more Americans than the Vietnam War, and he still says that it is not a dangerous disease. Numbers don’t lie. If we don’t take it seriously, more deaths will result as reported by the University of Washington health experts. I can’t understand why people still say it’s a hoax. Why Trump’s supporters want to fool themselves is deeply troubling.
If you are not sure about the truth of the news, Facebook posts, headlines and images, or things you see on the internet, there are websites to help you to fact check such as FactCheck.org, PolitiFact, Snopes.com, and Hoax-Slayer.com. You can also submit any request to Snopes if you’d like to verify your finding. You can also use Seattle Public Library’s service. Go to SPL.org and click on “Ask Us.”
One life to live
Some people say, “I don’t like wearing masks, period, “I want to party,” ”I can’t go on without visiting bars.”
But the risks of these behaviors are high for you and other people. Some say he is not afraid. But that’s not courage. It’s stupidity and arrogance. Even strong people have died of COVID-19. Is liberty more important than your life? If you die, you won’t be able to enjoy any liberty. So why take the chance? It’s too late to say, “I think I made a mistake,” like a young man who died in July after attending a COVID party (to test if he would get infected from someone with COVID-19) in Texas. Too late for regrets. You have only one life to live. Why risk it?
In a Chinese classic on filial piety, it is said, “Our body, hair, and skin are given by our parents. Everything that we have, is given by our parents.” We have a duty to keep ourselves healthy, and not get sick. It’s a way of exhibiting filial piety. Our body is a gift from our parents. Several years while my dad was alive, I called him on my birthday, “Thank you for giving me life.” My father never raised me, my stepfather did. However, without my dad and mom, I would never exist.
Your life is precious. You can contribute a lot more to your community by being alive.
I don’t trust Trump because I trust science more than just words of exaggeration, misrepresentation, and dramatization. Trump is a businessman. He doesn’t understand science. Nor does he respect science. And no, he is not interested in learning science for the sake of his country. He cares only about himself and getting re-elected. What’s worse, he thinks he’s smarter than scientists. That’s scary to me. Whatever he says, please take note whether it’s an assumption or emotion, check the data and facts so you don’t have to suffer the consequences. The easiest way is to Google it. Or talk to experts before you jump to conclusions.
No one has to be a victim of COVID if you know how to protect yourself and loved ones. Nor do you have to be a victim of falsehood.
Assunta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.