COVID-19 headlines have taken over virtually every news outlet. What began as just a small virus in Wuhan, China quickly became an internet sensation and a global pandemic. As of writing this article on March 11, 2020, over 100 locations have been affected and the number is ever growing. Starting in December, just a few people fell ill of this disease before Wuhan became the epicenter. That was before the numbers soared to over 80,000. Most of the country was under quarantine, including my family.
My extended family lives in various parts of China, from Shanghai to Hong Kong. My grandparents and my great aunt’s family all live in the urban areas of Shanghai, where the first death from COVID-19 was reported at the end of January. For the past two months, my entire family, both those in China and America, have been staying connected through the Chinese equivalent of iMessage: WeChat.
On Chinese New Year's Eve, I finally connected on video chat with my grandparents to wish them a Happy New Year. When the image finally loaded, I saw my grandpa standing outside of his apartment building with a cloth wrapped around his face multiple times. The only things visible were his eyes. My immediate reaction was, “Why are you outside with just a cloth on your face?” I was later told that the Chinese government allowed every family to buy a maximum of five face masks, however, his application for the five was not completed, so a cloth was the next best option.
When he got back home, the first thing he did was hand the phone to my grandma so that he could wash his hands, take a shower, and wear fresh clothes. My grandma spent time to tell me about the precautions they’ve been taking. The urgency in her voice was frightful. She had been self-quarantined and continuously cleaned the house. My grandpa only goes out once a week to get goods from the market. Beyond that, a once-bustling city has turned into a deserted ghost town.
For months now, my grandparents have been under self-quarantine. With their age and health issues, they have a much higher risk of having major health consequences due to COVID-19. Other members in my family continue to have the same problems. My great aunt and uncle remain quarantined in their house, even taking safety precautions to complete simple tasks like taking out the trash.
Even as the virus slows down in China, my relatives are still not completely safe. As COVID-19 reaches other nations such as Italy or the U.S, it is now a global issue.
My family and I continue to communicate on a daily basis through WeChat, monitor additional cases, and just check in to see how each other is doing.
For those with family in countries affected, the only thing we can do is to keep ourselves vigilant and continue to communicate with our family members so that we’re all aware and safe.