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My Dad was Quarantined in China Because of the Coronavirus


In mid-December of 2019, numerous patients developed pneumonia-like symptoms in Wuhan, China. The Chinese government disregarded this warning sign, unwilling to alarm its citizens. For all the world knew, life was normal. 

On January 13, 2020, my father traveled to China. News of the coronavirus broke out around the world. As for me, I found out through a BBC article on January 15. Naturally, I was worried about my dad, but also my grandparents and cousins. None of them, luckily, were in the epicenter of the virus, so I assumed I was simply overreacting. Then on January 20, China reported the first case of human-to-human transmission. No longer did it matter that my family wasn’t in Wuhan: coronavirus knows no boundaries and it’s not limited to the seafood market. The number of cases shot up exponentially with no sign of slowing down. It quickly infected every province and thousands of Chinese residents, surpassing the 8,098 infected in the SARS epidemic of 2003. Medical resources became strained, over fifty-six million citizens were quarantined, and I went to sleep scared for my family. I binge-watched every Youtube video about the coronavirus the day it came out, tightly monitoring its progress.

On January 24– Chinese New Year’s Eve– my dad and aunts canceled their Chinese New Year package at a local restaurant that they had pre-ordered months ago. Instead, they picked up the food and enjoyed it together in the safety of one of my aunt’s homes. At this point, fear of coronavirus was widespread and a holiday traditionally filled with love, joy, and optimism about the coming year was no longer such. 

My dad, along with the rest of Xian, was placed under quarantine. He had already paid to stay in his hotel until January 30, so he decided to stick it out. He was the last guest and hotel management was more than eager for him to leave so that they could minimize their risk of contracting the disease and shut the hotel down.

My dad’s original plan was to go back to work after the Chinese New Year break, but that hope quickly fell apart with the quarantine. He reflects that if he had known the severity of COVID-19, he would have flown back earlier. 

My dad moved into one of my aunt’s apartments, vacant as she was out of town. He was not allowed to leave and nobody was allowed to come in. There was only one exception: every two days, he was allowed out of the gated community to go to the convenience store, where he bought sausages and ramen, with the occasional fruit, to sustain himself. He had to either provide a paper pass to the community management or register his apartment number with them to leave. Only one member per apartment was allowed out, and many families went out as infrequently as possible, even once a week, to minimize risks. To put this into perspective, most Chinese citizens buy groceries every morning from a farmer’s market, but at this time, the farmer’s market and even grocery stores seized to exist. Just about everything was closed, including public transportation. Tractors blocked major roads to prevent residents from leaving and concrete roads were intentionally damaged: potholes were created so that cars would get stuck trying to pass. 

 My dad phoned me at least two times a day, forgetting that I have school in the morning and various activities, like homework, to attend to at night. He was bored out of his mind and had no one to keep him company. The Chinese Lantern Festival, a public holiday where people flock the streets to release lanterns and celebrate with families, passed as just another day in quarantine. 

Eventually, the Chinese government lifted the quarantine and encouraged people to begin working again. 

At this point, there were no longer any direct flights from China to the United States. After some pleading from my mom and I, my dad agreed to fly to Tokyo first, before catching a flight home. Upon entering the United States, he was presented with a slip of paper from the CDC telling him to regulate his temperature and symptoms for 14 days and stay within the house. But he in no way needed to be quarantined from the rest of our family. Reflecting upon this, I realized that everything on the news must be taken with a grain of salt, as the content is often sensationalized for more clicks and reads.

My dad’s own story helped me attain a clearer picture of what the coronavirus is actually like. 

Today, my dad feels perfectly fine, so it’s important to remember that even though the coronavirus keeps spreading, many people recover or never succumb to the virus in the first place. They are the lucky ones.

Note: This article was written in mid-February, but as it’s being posted in mid-March, the situation has escalated. Now, it’s no longer my father, but my whole community essentially in quarantine (without strict regulations). Classes are online from 3/13 to 4/6, and all extracurriculars of mine have been canceled. However, I still stand by my original thoughts that COVID-19 isn’t something to worry over, but rather be cautious about.

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