I got asked to read a poem at an event for Hong Kong, Macao, and Chongqing University students, so I wrote and read a chapter from my forthcoming Amos book. The event was in Tongliang Village, and that’s where my main character, Amos’ grandmother, lives and where he returns from his magical adventures Elsewhere at the end. So, I wrote a chapter near the end from my outline and, feeling brave, read it to the crowd on that hot and sunny day.
I was glad I did, as the response from the students and professors was very positive and encouraged me to keep writing it, and so this summer, I have been working hard, aiming for 2000 words or a chapter every day. I find I write best in the morning, with some green tea or coffee and a clear, focused mind, so that’s what I generally do. A few days, we’ve had to get up and run to the new house, where Xiaolin is putting the decorative finishing touches on it. It’s been hard work for her, but I’m proud of her, and it’s looking great. In general, July has been good, and summer is going well. Except, we’ve put off plans for the vacation.
China has been generally COVID-free (for the most part) since our initial lock-down and epidemic prevention. Our quarantine net and contact tracing and strict testing and quarantine procedures have been rock solid, the fact that seems inexplicably unreproducible in the western world so much that they can’t even imagine it even in theory. That said, we had an incident that’s rocked China harder than anything else since the Wuhan epidemic outbreak.
The story emerging is of a problematic flight from Moscow, Russia to Nanjing, China (now temporarily banned for their repeated infections on board, previous ones caught in quarantine and treated without incident until this massive failure of protocol leads to disaster), and nine airplane cleaners who, it’s been reported, disregarded their protocols, rumored to have removed their masks on the plane to eat some free Russian plane food. The nine have been infected and proceeded to seed an outbreak among their friends, families, and coworkers. China has been chasing down contacts hard, but this Delta Plus Variant makes it difficult. Compared to the so cold inoculum of the wild type that would take 10-15 minutes of the casual encounter, experts here say 5 seconds, within about 2 feet or 0.6 meters, is enough to transmit the virus. Close quarters indoors, but outdoors is also a possibility. There is no such thing, they say, as a free lunch. Although many angry Chinese are calling for stiff penalties for the workers that caused so many of us anxiety, inconvenience, and lost business, revenue, and more trouble (and they are no doubt coming for some leaders of Nanjing), I cheekily propose we send them via a green card to the USA, where their lackadaisical attitude would fit right in. That’ll teach them.
Nanjing tested its entire 9.2 million person population twice, isolating and quarantining anyone deemed a viable threat for 14 days, narrowing down the patients. We had daily spikes of between 50-100 patients for a few days, but it is now settling down. With about 1200 active cases for 1.4 billion people, there is now under one case per million in China. That said, we had 3 cases in nearby Chengdu, a couple in Chongqing, which was enough to put several communities on lock-down and the city on high alert. We’ve tested hundreds of thousands of possible exposures, and so far, it seems to be mainly under control. Still, some schools and tutoring centers are already shifting in anticipation and prevention to online remote classes. My school has asked us not to leave the city, and after one Beijing man got COVID-19 on a flight back from Sanya, our appetite to go there has diminished.
Instead, strongly desiring a break from my routine and some sun and swim, I took a chance and offered to dog sit and house sit for my friends who left for a week-long trip to the majestic deserts of Gansu. Their pad, an exclusive new complex at Raffles City, the famous horizontal skyscraper downtown, has a gorgeous infinity pool and the night view is probably the best in the city.
We had fun with her parents playing some MahJong and enjoyed the change of pace a lot. Their golden retriever puppy was a handful for us, especially with old Benben, as he was too old and too small to be able to really play with her and just barked and tried to hide, but we managed to make it work. She’s an adorable puppy, as huge and strong as she was. The week saw me get some good writing done, some great swimming and relaxing opportunities, and nice meals. We went with take-out over dine-in, as many people are now on high alert again or the first time in 14-15 months, and we’re wearing masks in the malls. They’re doing routine temperature checks and QR health code checks to get into these crowded locations, but it seems to be working to find and isolate potential infections and keep the rest of us safe.
New studies say there’s a 99.999% survival rate for vaccinated people even against the Delta plus strain in the USA. With 160 million Americans are fully vaccinated, just over 1000 died — it’s pretty good odds against hospitalization or death. Still, the studies show even fully vaccinated, we can get enough to get a bit sick and spread it, not as much as the unvaccinated but still enough to worry about our kids and the immuno-compromised unvaccinated folks.
Luckily, my grandma, parents, and close family people have all had their shots. Behavioral differences are interesting too. 54% of vaccinated adults in an Axios poll from July said they were extremely or very concerned about the delta variant compared to only 25% among unvaccinated adults.
How many go outside without masks? Vaccinated: 16% never wear them outside. Unvaccinated 35% never wear them outside. So the delta variant plus outbreaks in the west are very different between unvaccinated and vaccinated communities.
Some areas, such as Alberta and Mantiboa in Canada, are removing all mask regulations or requiring COVID-positive individuals to quarantine. This freedom is their hope for lasting herd immunity, but the impact on children 1-12 who cannot yet get a vaccine or the immune-compromised who cannot be vaccinated is quite a wild card, and there’s a potential for a lot of long covid and a generation of severely impacted individuals such as we haven’t seen since the polio epidemic of the 1950s
Some areas with high vaccinated populations see a mild covid presentation, with very few hospitalizations and deaths. Others, with low rates, have stuffed ICUs in the city, county, and states, where medical triage decisions might again fall heavily on the shoulders of doctors and nurses still suffering PTSD from the earlier waves. They say, if you are unvaccinated, your chance of dying is 25X higher than if you’re vaccinated. If you have the opportunity to get one, get one. It’s not just about COVID— there aren’t ICU beds for adults or kids in many low-vaccinated areas now. Your kid breaks his arm, your family gets in a car accident, someone has a heart attack, and there aren’t beds, there’s no place to go. The vaccine hesitancy will also surely create more dangerous variants and mutations of COVID… this isn’t the end of the story, as much as we’d like it to be over and move on now. The mixed messaging in many countries, including politicians and leaders arguing that it is not serious despite all facts and deaths, makes it very hard for many people to know how to behave. Against, I feel fortunate to have seen it from inside China, where we worked together and handled the epidemic as a united front. I hope the story of how well an effective collective effort can be will somehow be a lighthouse to places that sorely need that kind of coordination. From the human rights conference, I picked up a great quote that sums up our feelings well, “Without collective effort and collective freedom, we cannot have individual freedom.” That’s the takeaway.
Kai shares his diary exclusively with iChongqing. Kai has been writing about the pandemic since his lockdown began on January 23, 2020. You can follow his fight against COVID-19 on his blog, www.theinvisiblewar.co, or find his first collection, Kai’s Diary (The Invisible War), the story of Chongqing’s battle against the COVID epidemic in book stores and on Amazon.
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