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The China Monologues: The (now) COVID-19 Virus, update No. 2

Rash judgments and poor behavior have spread more quickly than the virus itself


As he rolled up his sleeves, Manfriend told the guard, “I’ll guess … 35 degrees (Celsius).”

Chuckling, the guard held the thermometer over his arm and waited.

Close, – 35.5 degrees.

“I knew it!” he said, as we walked into our apartment community.

So goes life in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak here in China.

Temperature checks have been the latest precaution to arrive in our corner of Beijing. Various shops around town are doing the same. Face masks are a must. “Better safe than sorry,” we all seem to be saying.

A sentiment I’ve already shared. Going on a month of self-imposed quarantine, Manfriend and I are as well-adjusted as circumstances will allow. There’s not much else to say to, “How are you two?” — the first of two questions I’m asked a lot lately.


But the second — “How do you really know what’s going on?” — has been trickier question to answer.

“I mean, can you really trust what’s being reported there?” folks ask.

I suppose not. But can we really put all our stock in wild theorizing either? Can we unquestioningly absorb uneducated assumption or racist propaganda? Of course not, nor should we believe any governing body would operate with 100 percent transparency.

So what does that leave us with, here in the thick of things?

It’s been our choice to tread the line between extreme views. Manfriend and I set up camp in the middle, knowing somewhere between the two sides lies the most accurate picture.

But while we scour outlets for a more balanced view, we’ve been disappointed to see how folks have reacted to this outbreak. Rash judgments and poor behavior have spread a hell of a lot more quickly than this virus has.

And that’s a shame.

Because the show of unity here in China has been pretty incredible to witness.

Take Beijing, a bustling city with millions of residents. Streets are still relatively empty, with folks choosing to stay in to help stem any potential spread.

That large-scale choice isn’t easily imagined in other countries.

And to those in far worse condition, folks are sending unconditional support. Across social networks, floods of encouragement are pouring into Wuhan and its surrounding areas.

It’s been amazing to watch folks come together.

Now, I get it. This has been scary. But it’s not the first time something scary has happened like this, even in countries like the U.S. It likely won’t be the last.

And here in Beijing, Manfriend and I have definitely felt scared. We’ve talked a lot about what we should do.

Together, though, we’ve chosen to stay. We’ve worked hard to see things from every angle. And we’ve done our best to find a laugh and a smile wherever we can.

Losing your head, casting stones, or making blanket judgments doesn’t do anybody any good.

Even a passing chuckle with a community guard helps keeps things calm and in perspective.

Something we all may want to do more of these days.

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