The Coronavirus is coming – Some thoughts from Hong Kong

The Coronavirus is coming – Some thoughts from Hong Kong March 11, 2020

I shared this briefly on a friend’s social media and it was suggested I make it more widely available. So, here goes (with edits and footnotes).

My view from the MTR (subway) this week. There are fewer people than usual, by maybe 30-50%, but still, life goes on. People are cautious. 95% wear face masks*.

I’m in Hong Kong. Here, the medical establishment demanded swift action from the government. It was amazing to watch. They even went on strike when the gov’t dragged their feet. In the end, even though we have a long border with China and used to have tons of people coming and going, everything stopped (almost), and now we have only 126 cases (in a city of 7 million). Taiwan took stricter measures and has had fewer cases (48).

We’ve been on semi-quarantine. It has been weird. But life is okay, and the elderly aren’t dying in droves, which is a blessing.

To my friends in America, I’d suggest cutting down your “going out” activity as much as possible, completely if you can. Any gathering of people is an opportunity for one sick individual (maybe they’re pre-symptomatic, maybe they think they just have a little cold) to spread the illness to several more, who then take it home to others.

As many have noted, the US isn’t testing thoroughly yet. Seattle was caught off guard and officials there believe the disease was circulating in the community for several weeks before it got to the nursing home.

My advice from here: take care of yourself. Do online work if you can, anything to avoid big gatherings…

Even small gatherings are a risk. After a couple weeks of shock, our family has started socializing a bit with friends. If cases start to rise quickly again, we’d probably go back on mostly-lockdown.

* a note on face masks. Here they are part of the ‘social distancing’ you might have heard of. If you’re breathing into one of these and you’re infected (and don’t know it) and you cough – your germs don’t go spraying into the air. It’s that simple. They’re not for you. They’re for everyone else. Supplies are definitely an issue, and you don’t want to be competing for the last masks at the hardware store with your local nurses and doctors, so pay attention to local guidelines.

Wise advice from the Scientific American: Preparing for Coronavirus to Strike the U.S, where they wrote last month:

“Preparing for the almost inevitable global spread of this virus, now dubbed COVID-19, is one of the most pro-social, altruistic things you can do in response to potential disruptions of this kind.

We should prepare, not because we may feel personally at risk, but so that we can help lessen the risk for everyone. We should prepare not because we are facing a doomsday scenario out of our control, but because we can alter every aspect of this risk we face as a society.”

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