I spoke with friends in Malaysia on Wednesday.
“Life has definitely changed. Right now school has asked us not to have any international visitors as they would have to pass through airports, possibly putting our community at risk. At this point, we’re hoping we’ll be able to come home this summer for break.”
I spoke with my friends in Vietnam on Friday.
“Schools have been closed for 5 weeks; and we’ve been operating with virtual lessons. Staff still go in daily to lesson plan and post for students. Today we’re simulating a quarantine situation to see if we can work from home, accessing Zoom and Google Meets. It’s pretty crazy.”
I spoke with my brother and sister-in-law in Switzerland today.
“A colleague at my school has tested positive. School is cancelled tomorrow, but teachers are going in for a meeting, but there’s no confirmation that we’re closing as of yet. We’re feeling an intense moral dilemma of whether or not we should self-quarantine. We feel like if we walk down the street, or into a bakery, and pass an elderly person, we'll inevitably pass this on to someone who might be severely impacted.”
“I mean… should I go into work tomorrow and expose the faculty and student body? We feel responsible for our actions, but there’s not really any hard fast rules yet. We’re not worried about ourselves getting sick, we’re worried about other people who might not be as healthy as us.”
I mull over comments by WHO director-general Ghebreyesus.
“This is not a drill. This is not the time for giving up. This is not a time for excuses. This is a time for pulling out all the stops. Countries have been planning for scenarios like this for decades. Now is the time to act on those plans.”
I follow the events in the Kirkland nursing home. I watch New York City’s response. I take in the quarantine of cruises.
My mind skips to my Grandma, who lives in a retirement community with some of her best friends. It jumps to my mom, who is over 60 and has struggled with respiratory issues for the past three winters. It passes over the other people in my life, who fall into the “high-risk category,” and it makes me pause. People I’m not ready to say goodbye to.
I realize the fear comes from the unknown. I’ve lived abroad and know first hand that an alarmist reaction helps nothing. I know that panic has no solutions. And yet...
I find myself hoping that we, as Americans, can stand united. I hope that we can take the lessons pouring out of China, Iran, Italy, Southeast Asia, Europe... I desperately hope that people look beyond, “It’s just flu-like symptoms. No big deal,” and realize that doesn’t hold true for our entire population. I hope we can do this not for ourselves, but so that we can protect the weakest among us. Most of all, I hope we act instead of react.