Perspective on the Coronavirus in China: Robin Wang

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A plane departs from Wuhan carrying medical professionals home to Yunnan Province, who had come to help doctors in Wuhan manage coronavirus cases. (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/19/china-positions-itself-as-a-leader-in-tackling-the-coronavirus)

Alexandra Cordle, News Writer

On the eleventh of January, the Central Health Commission in Wuhan, China, reported the death of a 61-year-old man. This would be the first reported death related to what is now globally known as COVID-19, but at that point was only known as a pneumonia-like virus that was the cause of mass panic in China. Later the same day, The New York Times stated, “There is no evidence that the new virus is readily spread by humans.”

Since then, as of April 10th, there have been almost 2,000,000 cases worldwide accompanied by over 100,000 deaths.

Despite the fact that Sewickley Academy aims to help fix global issues through discussion and often charity work, it is rare that we are directly affected by a global issue in such a dramatically jarring way. Even in Allegheny County, there are 788 cases of the coronavirus, and 18 people have succumbed to the virus. But before our community was affected by the illness itself, the severity of this pandemic still managed to present itself.

Robin Wang, a senior at Sewickley Academy, returned to China, where he had lived before coming to SA for his sophomore year, in late January of 2020.

I didn’t anticipate that a serious plague would sweep the [entirety of] mainland China.”

— Robin Wang

“I had two reasons to return back to China this year,” he said. “Firstly, I wanted to celebrate the most important festival in Chinese tradition, the Spring Festival, with my family. Secondly, I had to renew my passport because it would expire in June, 2020.”

Robin said that, when he arrived, he “didn’t anticipate that a serious plague would sweep the [entirety of] mainland China.”

The first days upon returning seemed to go without problems.

“People were still out on the streets buying food and clothes for the Spring Festival — It’s a tradition,” Robin said.

“I went [to take] my picture for my new passport with my mom and [went] shopping for the new year [on] the first day [Jan. 21],” he continued. “I played basketball and had desserts with my old friends from middle school the second day.”

However, Robin said, on Jan. 22, “My dad called me with an anxious tone telling me that Wuhan is closed by the central government and a national plague was about to come.”

“He wanted me to return home ASAP.”

Robin said that, at first, “I didn’t think it was that serious because my dad’s profession always made him overthink everything (he is a neurosurgeon).”

Though Robin would later note: “That was my last day I ever went out during my entire vacation in China.”

“All of a sudden, all Chinese citizens were told that Wuhan as a city collapsed in one night because of the coronavirus.”

Citizens in Wuhan awaiting medical treatment after the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
(https://www.thinkchina.sg/wuhan-coronavirus-test-human-kindness-and-resilience)

“The worst part was that many people from Wuhan (about three million) traveled out of the city before the city was officially closed,” Robin said. “If you know anything about Chinese geography, you will know that Wuhan is the most important city in the entire Chinese transportation system. It connects the upstream and the downstream of Yangzi River. It also connects many railroads and highways from north to south, west to east. The virus spread like a sun, radiating its power everywhere.”

“It’s the worst place you can think of to have an epidemic explosion.”

Regarding being stuck at home with little to no access to the internet, Robin said, “Well, at least staying at home can keep me safe. I downloaded a couple mobile games and played them day to night. It sounds very boring but I really didn’t have any other things I would like to do.”

Robin also spoke about the monotony of each day. “I didn’t follow the school work closely either. I pretty much woke up and cooked breakfast. My days weren’t interesting except immersing myself in video games and TV shows.”

“Well, I could still hope that once my new passport was issued, I should be able to go back to the US.”

But then fate took a turn for the worse and, as Robin put it, “Tragedy happened on the second day of February… The US federal government prohibited all foreigners from entering the US if they stayed in China in the last fourteen days.”

This was particularly bad for Robin because, he said, “that day, unfortunately, was the day before I got my new passport. Of course I was extremely stressed and disappointed.”

He also thought of his education and said, “I was worried about my graduation and all the school events and sports I committed to because the policy, according to the federal government, was supposed to last for two months.”

Doctors sent to Wuhan to help with the coronavirus outbreak take a photo as they get ready to depart now that cases have slowed.
(https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/19/china-positions-itself-as-a-leader-in-tackling-the-coronavirus)

“I repeated my boring daily life until my mom informed me there was still a way out.”

Thankfully, Robin’s mother had found a way to get him back to the US. He “could stay in a third country for fourteen days and then go back to the US.”

Robin debated if it was even worth trying, as no one had actually done that before, making him and his family uncertain if it would actually work. The coronavirus was already spreading to other countries, but ultimately, he said, “After a ten-day struggle, I thought that this proposal was worth trying.”

Robin then went to Dubai and stayed there with his mother’s friend for two weeks.

During those fourteen days, Robin said that, “With the internet access, I was able to make up most of my school work.”

From Dubai, he travelled to Turkey, and then took another flight to Boston. From there he returned to Pittsburgh and was back in school on March 9 — which, in an unfortunate twist of fate, was only a week before SA left for Spring Break, never to return this school year. On his arrival at SA, Robin was greeted with a welcome poster from his peers, and hopefully not too much homework.

Now Robin says that he is “doing well,” following the stay-at-home order by the PA governor, though he remarks that it’s simply “life in quarantine, nothing special.”

Sources:

“Coronavirus in the U.S.: Latest Map and Case Count.” The New York Times, 26 Feb. 2020, www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html. Accessed 19 Apr. 2020. Map.

Pettersson, Henrik, et al. “Tracking coronavirus’ global spread.” CNN, 22 Jan. 2020, www.cnn.com/interactive/2020/health/coronavirus-maps-and-cases/. Accessed 10 Apr. 2020. Map.

Wee, Sui-Lee, and Donald G. McNeil, Jr. “China Identifies New Virus Causing Pneumonialike Illness.” The New York Times, 8 Jan. 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/01/08/health/china-pneumonia-outbreak-virus.html. Accessed 10 Apr. 2020.