Katherine Tosi: An update on the coronavirus from an 'insider' wearing pajamas

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So I figured I would give a Shanghai coronavirus update to the few that are interested.

1) Work: all schools are closed including mine. Everyone is teaching online. A large number of teachers left the country while they could and if they had a place to go to.

2) Yes, I am in Shanghai. Getting on a metal flying germ filled death tube with hundreds of other people seemed to be the stupidest idea ever.

3) I am 97 percent at home. I have gone out to do exciting things like empty the trash and buy food. The streets are quiet. The buses have zero-to-five people on them, most shops are closed.

4) Masks. Yes, I have one. Is it effective? Hmmmm, not too sure about that. And if I fill out a form, stand in a line and get a number to stand in a different line, apparently each person can now get two masks. Taping an ultra-thin maxi pad to my nose would be about as effective. A very friendly lady came to my apartment to have me document where I had traveled to recently.

5) Everyone is wearing masks. People with clip-boards make you sign in and out of various areas and take your temperature. People wearing yellow-drawstring hefty bags, errrr, I mean hazmat suits can be seen occasionally.

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Prescriptions are running out. When I went to my kind-of-western but all Chinese doctors hospital they had signs saying "GO AWAY" if you have a fever.

6) Crap. What if I get a fever? It is flu season. People get sick. People get fevers. Getting a fever is not an option. Getting a fever would scare me senseless on many levels. I am washing my hands and have also bleached the living hell out of my apartment. How long does this virus live on the surfaces of things? Nobody knows. That is scary.

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7) Supplies and such: some food delivery is open. Life must be OK if KFC and McDonald's are still zooming around, right? However, now they won't let deliveries into the compounds. Meaning that there are tremendously huge piles of food and this and that piling up at the guard gates. Which means lots of people are gathering out there to pick up their stuff (counter intuitiveness score: 100/100).

8) As an animal lover, I am constantly aware of all of the animals and pets who have been stranded, be it in markets or homes or overseas (aka one zillion lobsters in New Zealand with nowhere to go.)

9) The worst timing possible. This virus came at the absolutely worst time possible. Chinese New Year means ga-zillions of people traveling. It also means that you are stuck with all of your relatives while you figure out if you can go home. Imagine. ALL of your extended family. Locked together. In small quarters. Egads. I also thought this would be a very productive time, you know ... stuck at home. But mostly I do a lot of nothing.

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10) I am lucky. Really. I still have a job. My employer has been amazing, supportive and transparent. But that is a total exception. The current wrath of the financial well-being of millions of Chinese is hard to even fathom.

11) The Elephant In The Room: This is an interesting one. Things are just so quiet. Or maybe I have no friends. Or both? Within China: People are NOT messaging each other or calling frantically. Or saying hello. There is a strange silence: you don't want to say you are scared but you also don't want to be acting normal. From abroad: I don't think people get it. International exchange programs to Asia, debate competitions, still being planned.

12) I am pretty OK on food supplies but not so great on water supplies, but the weirdest thing ever: I went to Carrefour (a big supermarket/WalMart-like thing) three days ago and all the shelves were fully stacked. Meat aisle, butcher, bakery, everything normal. Cup of Noodles was running low. As was cat litter. But I was one of only 20 people shopping. I don't get it. Are they trying to pretend all is well?

13) I will end on 13 as I have always considered it a lucky number. I am not part of the "I stand by China until I die to prove my love for this country" nor am I blaming China. Spending all day in my pajamas and looking up death tolls will get boring but I am definitely staying INSIDE. And really, I think I need a Corona.

Katherine Tosi is a 1987 graduate of Brattleboro Union High School and attended the University of Vermont. She left the United States in 1996 and currently resides in Shanghai, China. She currently works at New York University Shanghai.


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