Saturday, February 29, 2020

Day Ten: Open Letter for Enemies of Civil Discourse

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Day Nine: Letter from Congressman Welch's Office

UPDATE: Phyrrhic victory!!! They have clarified that people should come home and get sick instead of stay and get sick, but all I was seeking was clarity. Come home, friends!

Hello Mr. Lee,

I certainly understand your frustration. I reached out to the State Department with your question, and received the following response:

“Those currently in China should attempt to depart by commercial means. U.S. citizens remaining in China should follow the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Chinese health authorities’ guidance for prevention, signs and symptoms, and treatment. We strongly urge U.S. citizens remaining in China to stay home as much as possible and limit contact with others, including large gatherings.”

Please don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any additional questions.

Thank you,

Shannon Furnari
Deputy State Director
Office of Congressman Peter Welch (VT-AL)

Day Eight: How You Can Help This Effort

In Memory of Dr. Li Wenliang (1986-2020)

See the source image

Lessons and Scripture for the Day

There are three kinds of information:
  • what we know
  • what we think we know
  • rumors and speculation
This morning, I spoke to someone that I have known a long time who had very good information on coronavirus. He works in public health on the environmental side for a state government. They are knee deep in responding to the pending, possible pandemic. He asked me, a little too politely and diplomatically as he has been trained, to remove an irresponsible article from my Facebook feed that I had posted mostly to make the point that the rumors are rampant. I don't want to be in the company of Rush Limbaugh, who continues spreading this vile bile even as his bearded countenance withers into even greater (mental) illness that will eventually consume him. So, I did as I was told asked.

In fact, the most irresponsible article that I have shared was in WeChat Moments, on the other side of the Great Firewall of China. If I was still inside China, I would not have posted it, because I am more cautious there--given the strict punishment for rumor mongering. The article was viral and claimed that America had started the spread of the virus (think smallpox blankets and Indians), as well as kept secret the presence of 10,000 infected people--a possibility that most doctors and American journalists find preposterous. Just almost no way that could happen in this social media rich nation with a free press.

The topic of the untoward repercussions of censorship and Dr. Li Wenliang (the opthamologist who died of COVID-19 on February 6 and whom I referred to as a martyr in last night's post) is beyond the scope of today's discussion, but my old friend from Changchun--with whom I sometimes think that I have only a christened name (Alexander), our Catholic faith, and a penchant for argumentation in common--has published a powerful essay on the subject.

My acquaintance shared a Scientific American article that every responsible blogger, journalist, and poster to social media should read. Obviously, the rumors while we searched for the cause of HIV burned a painful memory in the generations that lived through the 1980s. More recently, the SARS epidemic in 2003 gave rise to horrible rumors. Yet even this very article that I am recommending, which was written as an antidote to misinformation, features a picture that is irresponsible from a public health awareness perspective.

How to Report on the COVID-19 Outbreak Responsibly
South Korean health officials spray disinfectant in Daegu on February 21, 2020. Credit: Jung Yeon-Je Getty Images

While this is happening in South Korea now and it happened near my home in Panyu District of Guangzhou City, this aerosol spraying is mostly a placebo to reassure the public, peering out from their windows, that the government is doing something to protect you. It is an effective propaganda tool, albeit an expensive use of public resources. 

Before I conclude this post, I want to summarize the main recommendations of my friends in public health and the CDC fliers that I have been handed since coming back:
  • get the flu shot. 
  • wash your hands all the time
  • do not touch your face
  • avoid sick people (but if you have one in your home assign one person to tend her/him)
When I leave this place where I am staying, I will need to wash the grime in the sink, bathroom, and anywhere else its built up. Using a disinfectant is not necessary, but helps. 

Finally, I discussed with him that I think there needs to be a "Guide for Returners" that helps us to find the hotels which have agreed to host people who might be hosting COVID-19, helps us to figure out the financial resources to get a phone, find and pay for safe transportation to our lodgings, etc. The three day delay between landing and my visit from the Seneca County Health Department was enough time for me--who had called CDC and the New York Health Department prior to leaving China--to spread the disease to hundreds of people, if I had not been responsible and if I had not come to a rural county. Luckily, as I keep mentioning I am very healthy, but that does not mean that I don't have it because of the long incubation period. If I did and had gone to rent a car, eat at a restaurant on the drive north because the one that I had thought I would go to was closed, and visited the healthy food store in Ithaca to do a couple weeks of food shopping many people could be sick because of me. Yet, I probably had less contact than most people would, as I had meticulously planned to rent a car, do all my shopping at once, and only stop for gas and a meal.

Thanks for reading and please help to promote responsible reporting of information on COVID-19 or other diseases. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Day Seven: Welcoming People Home from China

One more week to go of this "experience"...if I am not sick, and their is no evidence that I am. Temperature hovers around 98 degrees morning and night. I am arguing with everybody about everything. This a lot more stressful than I anticipated so get ready if you are reading this from China and planning to come home for a two-week isolated quarantine. Probably more manageable if you land with your whole family and you hole up together, but this is for the birds--even if I have the best Superhost ever, ever and his property is gorgeous. Not trying to sound ungrateful or like my situation is particularly rough. I am healthy after all! What do we have in life besides our health? Or something like that. Still and all, it is stressful.

It is increasingly clear that school, in my province of China (i.e., Guangdong), will extend beyond the expected mid-July end of the school year to the end of the first week of August, though no announcements have been made. In the education market, that may mean that there will be high attrition. Thus, next fall, if everything is back to a modicum of normality, it may be a good time to look for opportunities teaching in China. Already the various recruitment websites are noisy with places looking for new hires. If the various provincial education boards do make this decision to lengthen the school year due to the lower intensity of on-line teaching and stemming from a desire to make sure all content is covered, they need to think about what ramifications that will have on students, parents, Chinese and foreign teachers, and the economy.

It is not clear, when and if life returns to normal, what the Chinese government will do to insert a bit of juice into the economy after two or three months of its malingering workforce not making widgets. Already the biggest travel time of the year (Lunar New Year) and resultant economic activity world-wide has been devastated by the nearly national shut-in. Difficult times lie ahead for all businesses. The restaurant sector is likely to have been hit very hard as margins are thin to non-existent in good times. One friend of ours has 23 restaurants and over a thousand workers who he cannot pay. Imagine this story repeated, literally, millions of times over. If students had intended to attend a summer program in late July and early August, now they may not be able to do so.

I am starting to get to the place where I don't want to read the COVID-19 news updates any longer, even though it is germane to my family and my life as a teacher in China. I have been looking at The Guardian every day for a month now to get the best available health reporting and up-to-the-minute alerts about breaking news. Furthermore, I can hardly make sense of the world any more. The Internet and social media seem to be full of rumors and misleading propaganda, my distinction being that the latter are officially generated a type of rumor promulgated by governments or government actors. For instance, the various theories of spread based on bats, snakes, and pangolins have gotten a lot more play than they merit, maybe. Yesterday, I thought it was fecal spread because of the Chinese CDC article published a few days ago. Today a respected NH doctor, with whom I discussed this, re-sent me the US CDC stuff about how they think it is primarily spread through the air by coughing and sneezing. He agreed that it could be both. I joked that if I have this thing, I am like a perfect piece of evolutionary farm equipment--a spreader and a sprinkler. We must keep pursuing the truth and the martyrs, like the doctor in Hubei who died from this, were doing that, but there are others, like Mike Pompeo, with an axe to grind. Can we trust that this is not economic warfare?

I burst into tears today while talking to my Congressman's office about the difficulty of coming back when you cannot get straight answers from a) a chronically understaffed Department of State or b) a frighteningly understaffed US CDC about a) whether you "should return by commercial means" is still the current recommendation or if it was even ever the real recommendation and b) what will happen in terms of quarantine when you do arrive. As I believe I mentioned in an earlier post,  I had called both US CDC and the NY Dept of Health before arrival and I said please don't share my phone number unless absolutely necessary with the CDC worker in the airport. None of these parties explained that two nice RNs from the county health department would be out to see me and do an intake interview. That would have been nice to know for me and for my AirBnB Superhost before they called to announce that they would like to come out and see me.

I talked to a reporter that I have known for almost twenty years today for almost an hour relating much of what's happened and at the end, under pressure from his editor, he had to cut off my droning, detailed stories with the question that I remember from Project Laundry List days when a reporter did not think there was a story, "What do you want me to do with this info?" Let me try to answer that.

I want people to know that we cannot get straight answers from our own government about whether we are supposed to shelter in place or leave.

Aside: My friend in California, whose quarantine with wife and kids did not involve daily calls to report his temperature to public health officials or a visit from any state or county health officials, was speculating that when we return some people will resent that we were able to leave. Good Lord, there is a difference between solidarity and stupidity. 

Today's news from Italy and South Korea make me confident that I did the right thing, but I am conflicted because when will my girlfriend and the two kids we are raising together be able to leave? When will China let them leave and the US let them enter? We are lucky that they all have current visas (and Yaya and I both have a MasterCard), but I cannot imagine the Americans inside of China, who want to leave but don't have a visa or a line of credit. At current "market" rates they are facing a 12,000 RMB ($1,700) round-trip plane ticket, if they can even find an available one; two weeks in a hotel or friend's house where they should not share a toilet with other non-pariahs, etc. Some might be facing losing their job if they come home and don't go back when school's and work open.

There needs to be a support group to welcome people back from China. I would rather call it a relief committee so it does not sound so pathetic, but people need information and what is on the CDC website or what little clarity you can coax from the Department of State is not enough to help figure out where to stay, how to get groceries, etc. Then there is all the regular hassle of coming back and needing to get a working SIM card, etc. It's a lot to think through and people need checklists and guidance. Even hyper-educated, hyper-vigilant, hyper-responsible people like myself. Done tooting my horn.

That's enough stream-of-consciousness for one day. Good night.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Day Six: My Fascination with Sh*t (and its possible relationship to COVID-19)

It was two books--The Humanure Hanbook (1995, now in its 4th edition) published while I was in college and How to Shit in the Woods (1989, now in its 3rd edition), a rollicking read to which I was introduced on a 1992 NOLS course in the Brooks Range of Alaska--that got me interested in shit. By senior year in college, I had also become aware that my favorite writer, Wendell Berry (b. 1934-), had written a book called The Toilet Papers--not his best literary work, but one of the most important. He made the observation that one of the stupidest things we do (I would add, besides give each other shit) is shit in water. Bill Gates agrees and is spending part of his fortune (less than 1%, I am sure--in fact, "Overall, the Gates Foundation has invested some $200 million into projects having to do with clean waste and sanitation") to solve this problem. (Stephen Colbert interviewed Bill and Melinda about their wealth and it is a good watch!)

The Toilet Papers: Recycling Waste and Conserving Water ePub (Adobe DRM) download by Wendell Berry       The Humanure Handbook 4th Edition
"A classic is back in print! One of the favorite books of 1970s back-to-the-landers, The Toilet Papers is an informative, inspiring, and irreverent look at how people have dealt with their wastes through the centuries." -review on EBookMall  The Humanure Handbook "is a self-published book that no respectable publisher would touch with a ten-foot shovel" available at The Humanure Store.

Gates has done the rounds with Jimmy Kimmel and Trevor Noah on the topic of poop. This is the most important thing that he is doing in our water-constrained world with his unearned billions. It is also relevant to COVID-19.

This Map Reveals Where Our Future Water Wars Will Begin

Jason Gale reports for Bloombergquint, "The finding of live virus particles in stool specimens indicates a fecal-oral route for coronavirus, which may be why it’s caused outbreaks on cruise ships with an intensity often seen with gastro-causing norovirus, which also spreads along that pathway. More than 600 Covid-19 infections were confirmed among passengers and crew aboard the Diamond Princess, the ship quarantined for two weeks in Yokohama, Japan."

It is time to take this shit very seriously.

The prevention and control recommendations in the report are:
Suggestions to strengthen the control of fecal oral transmission of 2019-nCoV include strengthening health publicity and education; maintaining environmental health and personal hygiene; drinking boiled water, avoiding raw food consumption, and implementing separate meal systems in epidemic areas; frequently washing hands and disinfecting of surfaces of objects in households, toilets, public places, and transportation vehicles; and disinfecting the excreta and environment of patients in medical facilities to prevent water and food contamination from patients’ stool samples. (China CDC Weekly)
Finally, on a personal note, I was thrilled to see, before I departed China, that my AirBnB had a Sun-Mar compost toilet solely for my use during the quarantine period (i.e., my shitty hands are the only ones touching the sawdust scoop handle) and nobody else is using it. I had suspected this mode of transmission for some time and am gratified to see it more solidly (no pun intended) confirmed; however, we still do not know enough about this coronavirus (COVID-19) and how it spreads to be conclusive.

I will post a little video introduction to the Sun-Mar toilet on my Facebook page, if you are interested in seeing what you could have in your home. Just as important as solar panels and your food compost/recycling set-up. Get with the program...

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Day Five: My Lazaretto, Musings On the Chronic Insane

A note to my host, a Briton, after yesterday's perambulation of my lazaretto:
When you are ready to do laundry, which need not be for a few more days, I wonder if you have a drying rack or clothesline, as I am historically, since college, philosophically unable to dry clothes in the dryer. I ran an organization called Project Laundry List ( for fifteen years (founded it in 1996) and a decade ago was featured in a full-length documentary by you British chaps, called Drying for Freedom ( (How you love to make fun of Americans!) Given your amazing hospitality and generosity, of course, under the circumstances, I would be willing to accept whatever you want to do...

"New Catholic" is my plot! Unmarked graves, eh? I love cemeteries as a historian and New Englander. There is a tale in my family that I once remarked to my father, at about age ten, "There are so many dead people in New Hampshire" because of the proliferation of Civil War (and earlier and later) family plots, often adjacent to an animal pound. They litter the forests and fields of northern New England on both side of the Connecticut. [Vermont shipped off more people per capita to fight in that war than any other state, except possibly Maine.]

That said, I did not love this graveyard, but I will go back. How utterly depressing to think of all those late 19th and early 20th Century adults with various syndromes (autism and Tourettes) that caused their families to abandon them for life, because they could not cope with what many times was probably not insanity at all. They lived out their lives and then did not even merit a headstone. Are all of the NY Cavalry and Infantry headstones also for inmates or is that a separate contiguous plot? Think of the PTSD after the Civil War and WWI, chapters in our national history buried and drowned out by the PTSD victims of Vietnam and Iraq/Afghanistan.
-Your Chronic Inmate
2/21/2020 at 2:47 PM

Chiesa di Santa Maria di Nazareth- Venezia


noun, plural laz·a·ret·tos.

1.  a hospital for those affected with contagious diseases, especially leprosy [and COVID-19].
2.  a building or a ship set apart for quarantine purposes.

1540–50; < Upper Italian (Venetian) lazareto, blend of lazzaro lazar and Nazareto popular name of a hospital maintained in Venice by the Church of Santa Maria di Nazaret
The Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane sits on both the National Register of Historic Places and at the end of my lane. Yesterday and again today, I wandered around the 75-acre farm to which I am legally bound for my period of (supposedly voluntary) self-quarantine. It is adjacent to a cemetery in which more than 6,000 people lie, more than 1,500 of whom were buried by one of their fellow denizens, named Mocha (like chocolate and coffee), or so claims a plaque erected by his admirers. He lived from 1878 to 1968 (90 years), outliving both MLK, Jr. and RFK.

As the video above mentions, most people spent thirty years in the place. Thirty years! I am only here for two weeks, cut off from family and friend. It will probably be long enough.

There are road signs in the middle of this barren field (no headstones): One says "New Catholic" (converts? Italian immigrants, Polish?), another "Old Catholic" (Irishman? Quebecois and Marylanders?). One says "New Protestant" (cremated?), another "Old  Protestant" (members of the Society of the Cincinnati? descendants of early settlers in the Colonies?). There is a plain "Jewish" sign and then a fabulous arch for "Old Jewish ✡ Cemetery."

At the far end of the field, by a precipice that goes down to the two-lane highway running along the shore of Lake Seneca is a soldier's field, where there are headstones. Mostly Civil War and Great War veterans (or KIA, perhaps), each man's stone has an American flag. Only one stone, slightly different than most of the rest has a wreath aside it.

Patrick Walsh was a seaman on the USS Wabash and USS Montauk, who fought in the Civil War, but died as America was entering World War I. Though he does not seem to be among the notable or honored crew, one wonders if he saw service with George Dewey.

There are no marked plots for atheists, agnostics, Moslems, Hindoos, or any other faiths, but in a grove of trees that bisects two fields are 107 cast iron, numbered graves with no other information.


+     +     +

In today's post, I want to turn, briefly and ultimately, from this description of and these musings on my surroundings to a brief reflection on the history of the lazaretto (spellcheck wants to make it amaretto). In Italian, lazar, as the etymology above indicates, means someone affected with a disease, especially the disease of Lazarus, or leprosy. Of course, as far as I know, I have neither COVID-19 nor leprosy nor chronic insanity, but I am self-quarantined near an asylum so this is not a non sequitur. Furthermore, I did say to my host, as I was proposing to stay here, "Feeling like a pariah! Haha," though my host's legitimate worries have mostly subsided as I continue to be healthy. Still, this experience, where a guest on his property overheard us talking about the impending initial visit from the Health Department nurses, makes me reflect on the experience of Lazarus, of those who survived the Black Death, of the Yellow Fever (not that "yellow fever"!) in Philadelphia, 1793. In fact, in preparation for the now largely cancelled United States Academic Decathlon in China--ironically focused on health this year with a big chunk of reading on plague--I learned a great deal about buboes and transmission of disease by rodents. I also read a wonderful book for young teens called Fever, 1793, which described how people would avoid each other on the streets of Philadelphia in the days of Dr. Benjamin Rush, though Yellow Fever is not transmitted from person-to-person

It is like that now in China. Masked, out for a walk in an abandoned park, you see someone coming the other way and both of you adjust or pull up your N95 masks and give a wide berth. You have no idea if the person could even give you COVID-19 if he tried, but we must behave that it is possible.

When I leave here, despite the fact that there will be virtually no chance that I arrived back in the US infected, will people still be worried to be near me? Of course there are those generous and/or foolish who would see me now, without waiting. Some may think that the God of Lazarus will protect them from being sick, perhaps because of their "good works"; others, because they perceive themselves to be healthy, young, virile. This is a disease killing smokers, as my friend Michael, who returned for a two week quarantine in China first observed. Those with already weakened lungs are succumbing at a higher rate than most, men more than women. In China, men smoke a lot.

Attribution: Jerrye &amp; Roy Klotz, MD / CC BY-SA (

Additional Reading

Read more about the suitcase that is mentioned in this spooky video above.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Re: Emergency Alert: Novel Coronavirus (UPDATED)

UPDATE: I did receive a response from the Consulate in Chengdu and understand from a State Department employee that the other consulates may not consistently be monitoring emails because several staff assisted with the Wuhan evacuations.

Hello Sir,

Thank you for your concern.

Both of these messages pertain to the same situation and provide the same basic information. The Department of State is doing its best to ensure that this information reaches the widest audience possible.

Very Sincerely,

American Citizen Services
U.S. Consulate General in Chengdu
Telephone: +86-028-8558-3992

Dear Ambassador, Consul or relevant federal worker,

Is this Emergency Alert below a recantation of the earlier statement from the Embassy on February 2: "Those currently in China should attempt to depart by commercial means"? See, where that information is still published. If it is not, I would like to know why you do not repeat that recommendation in every email message that you send to us. At considerable personal expense, I  returned to the homeland on Feb 17 based, in part, on the Dept. of State's recommendation. I am following here the protocols of the CDC and Dept. of Homeland Security. Please clarify as I have many American friends still there who want reliable and understandable information and suggestions from our government. Thank you.

Walk in balance,
Alexander Lee, JD, MSEL (Vermont Law '01)

On Fri, Feb 21, 2020 at 4:04 AM <> wrote:
Seal with white background

Emergency Alert: Novel Coronavirus
Current Outbreak of Coronavirus Disease 2019
There is an ongoing worldwide outbreak of a respiratory illness first identified in Wuhan, China, caused by a novel (new) coronavirus.  On February 11, 2020 the World Health Organization announced an official name for the disease that is causing the current outbreak of coronavirus disease, COVID-19.
What is COVID-19?
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is caused by a virus (more specifically, a coronavirus) identified as the source of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China.  Early on, many of the patients in the outbreak in Wuhan, China reportedly had some link to a large seafood and animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread. However, a growing number of patients reportedly have not had exposure to animal markets, indicating person-to-person spread is occurring.
What we recommend
U.S. citizens are urged to:
·         The Department of State's Travel Advisory for China is currently a Level 4- Do Not Travel to China due to novel coronavirus.   
·         Avoid contact with sick people.
·         If you decide to travel to China discuss your travel with your healthcare provider.  Older adults and travelers with underlying health issues may be at risk for more severe disease.
·         Avoid animals (alive or dead), animal markets, and products that come from animals (such as uncooked meat).
·         Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.  Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
·         Follow local authority instructions.
·         Closely monitor and for important information.
Before you travel
Due to the current public health situation, many countries have begun implementing strict screening procedures in order to prevent the spread of the COVID-19.
·         Any U.S. citizen returning to the United States who has been in Hubei province, China in the previous 14 days may be subject to up to 14 days of quarantine.
·         Any U.S. citizen returning to the United States who has been in the rest of mainland China within the previous 14 days may undergo a health screening and possible self-quarantine.
·         Please read these Department of Homeland Security supplemental instructions for further details.
·         U.S. citizens are encouraged to monitor media and local information sources and factor updated information into personal travel plans and activities.  You may also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
·         If you travel, you should enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program to receive updates.
Presidential Proclamation on Novel Coronavirus
On Friday, January 31 President Trump signed a proclamation barring entry to the United States of most foreign nationals who traveled to China within the past 14 days. The proclamation is in effect as of February 2. This action follows the declaration of a public health emergency in the United States related to the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, China. The full text of the presidential proclamation is available on the White House website at:
Passengers on Cruise Ships
U.S. citizens should reconsider travel by cruise ship to or within East Asia and the Asia-Pacific Region.  U.S. citizens planning travel by cruise ship elsewhere should be aware that, due to the current public health situation, many countries have implemented strict screening procedures in order to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.  This is a dynamic situation and U.S. citizens traveling by ship may be impacted by travel restrictions affecting their itineraries or ability to disembark, or may be subject to quarantine procedures implemented by the local authorities.  While the U.S. government has successfully evacuated hundreds of our citizens in the previous weeks, repatriation flights should not be relied upon as an option for U.S. citizens under the potential risk of quarantine by local authorities. U.S. citizens should evaluate the risks associated with choosing to remain in an area that may be subject to quarantine and take the appropriate proactive measures. Passengers who plan to travel by cruise ship should contact their cruise line companies directly for further information on the current rules and restrictions, and continue to monitor the website for updated information.
On January 30, the Department updated the Travel Advisory for China from a Level 3: Reconsider Travel to Level 4: Do Not Travel due to COVID-19 first identified in Wuhan, China.  In an effort to contain the COVID-19, the Chinese authorities have suspended air and rail travel in the area around Wuhan.  On January 31, the Department of State ordered the departure of all family members of U.S. personnel under age 21 from China.  The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Hubei province.
We strongly urge U.S. citizens in Hubei Province, China, to contact concerned family members in the United States and elsewhere to advise them of your safety.
Hong Kong
On February 8, the Hong Kong government began enforcing a compulsory 14-day quarantine for anyone, regardless of nationality, arriving in Hong Kong who has visited mainland China within a 14-day period. This quarantine does not apply to individuals transiting Hong Kong International Airport and certain exempted groups such as flight crews. However, health screening measures are in place at all of Hong Kong's borders and the Hong Kong authorities will quarantine individual travelers, including passengers transiting the Hong Kong International Airport, if the Hong Kong authorities determine the traveler to be a health risk. The Hong Kong government temporarily closed certain transportation links and border checkpoints connecting Hong Kong with mainland China and suspended ferry services from Macau.  On February 10, 2020 the Department of State allowed for the voluntary departure of non-emergency U.S. government employees and their family members due to COVID-19 and the impact to U.S. Consulate personnel as schools and some public facilities have been closed until further notice.
If you need assistance in China
·         U.S. citizens in Hubei Province, China who need emergency assistance can contact the U.S. Embassy at
·         To provide us with information about a U.S. citizen who is in Hubei Province, you may:
o   Contact the Department of State at‎.
o   Call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

  • 国务院发出的前往中国的旅行建议现阶段为第4级:鉴于新型冠状病毒,请勿前往中国旅行。
  • 避免与生病的人接触
  • 如果您决定前往中国,请先咨询您的健康顾问。年长或有潜在健康问题的出行者将会有更大的风险感染疾病。
  • 避免接触动物(活物或死物),动物市场和动物制品(比如说没有煮熟的生肉)。
  • 勤用肥皂洗手至少20秒。如果没有肥皂和水源的话,请用酒精洗手液代替。
  • 遵循当地权威的建议。
  • 密切留意 and CDC.gov发布的重要信息。
  • 任何美国公民在回美国前如果在过去的14天内到访过中国湖北省应当隔离14天。
  • 任何美国公民回美国前如果在过去的14天内到访过除湖北省的中国大陆的其他地区,会被要求进行健康检查也可能会被要求自我隔离。
  • 请访问 Department of Homeland Security supplemental instructions 获取更多详细信息。
  • 美国公民可以留意媒体报道和当地实时更新的数据来规划自己的行程和活动。您也可以关注我们的Twitter  Facebook
  • 如果您要旅行,您可以注册Smart Traveler Enrollment Program来获得更多资讯。
131日星期五,特朗普总统签署了一项公告,禁止在过去14天内到访过中国的大多数外国公民进入美国。 该公告自22日起生效。紧随其后美国因中国武汉COVID-19突发疫情宣布国家公共卫生紧急状态。关于总统令的全文请参阅白宫网站

  • 在湖北省的美国公民如需紧急帮助请联系美国驻华大使馆
  • 如果您需要向我们提供在湖北省的美国公民信息,您可以:
o 拨打美国和加拿大境内的免费电话1-888-407-4747; 从其他国家致电的话,请拨打1-202-501-4444。工作时间为美国东部标准时间早上8点到晚上8点,周一至周五(美国国定假日除外)。

Day Four: The Boy Who Preached Coyote

210A. The Boy Who Preached Coyote

Before even the Bard and Beowulf
There was the story of the wolf.
And even before this story lupine,
If I may be so bold as to opine,
A tale of a peculiar pastor
Who preached from his pasture,
A tale more revealing than his dhoti
About a creature we call the coyote.

"Every flock is afraid of a wolf pack,
That they might get 'called back,'
So they let their hackles down
When an approaching dog is brown.
Still, it's such an unkempt creature,
Ears a devilishly pointy feature,
Who will more likely overpower
And then voraciously devour
A soviet of apple-polishers."

Scribbled from the western tit of Romulus, known as Ovid, by the shores of Lake Seneca, near Rome, Utica, and Syracuse, in a Pandora's box of Classical-Haudenosaunee place names


‘Mao’s Last Dancer’ in review – The Spectator
Mao's Last Dancer (2009), the autobiography of Li Cunxin
Is this Mao's Last dance? The Chinese government from the highest command to the most local cadre must perform miraculously in a precarious balancing act. WHO is watching. Who is watching? The world. They know it; we know it.

If they send people back to work and school too early and this thing--this COVID-19--spreads before there is a vaccine or better understanding of transmission modes, this long period that I have referred to previously as the Quietude of Chaos will have accomplished very little beyond devastating their own economy and sinking much of the population into great depression. If they press pause too long, they will have a hard time, the next time a more or less potent disease emerges, in convincing anybody of the wisdom of waiting. Furthermore, the longer the delay, the more vulnerable the motherland becomes. Each day of economic anemia is a vial of poison for the regime. They know it; we know it.

Boys who have played at government in the United States for the last three years and one month and one day--Trump, Pompeo, Esper, and the like--may think to throw a match on the silk threads and see if they can burn their frenemy into compliance, but callow children are warned, "One should not play with matches." We know it; do they know it?

Day Three: "Routine" Visit from County Health Department

Yesterday's tea was Yerba Mate (I brought my bombilla and gourd with me). Today is a LiuBao day, which is a black (dark) tea from Guangxi Province. I made it in my lidded tea cup, or gaiwan.

An Airbnb Superhost provided teapot with butterly motif gaiwan and a cup of LiuBao tea. That's my gourd for Yerba Mate.
The Seneca County Health Department came to educate me about how I ought to behave for the next couple weeks. They brought me a thermometer and other supplies (facemasks, hand sanitizer and Chlorox wipes, Kleenex, etc.). "If I need the Kleenex, I am supposed to call you, right?" Laughter and assent. When I am through here, they will bring me a letter certifying that I did the self-quarantine, which should allow me to pass into Canada if I need to go there to retrieve Naomi.

I must call every morning and report on my morning and evening temperature. I am not allowed to leave the 75-acre property, but they thought it might be alright if I wander through the abutting graveyard, which has 6,000 bodies of "chronic insane" [sic], and is the only property between this one and Lake Seneca.

A wonderful pair of very professional registered nurses, they stayed nearly an hour as I, who has only had prolonged contact with my family and Tim Perry of Gloucester in the last month, regaled them with stories about China. They asked about my physical health and my mental health--still nutty as a Snickers bar. They will deliver groceries or whatever else I may need. I apologized for being an imposition on their tiny rural county, but they are only twenty minutes away in Waterloo (a place name that is neither Greek nor Roman nor Iroquoian) and it seems that they are happy to help.

From them, I learned today that if I had not voluntarily agreed to self-quarantine then they would have to go to the state and get a court order, so I certainly did the right thing. They were impressed by how responsible I have been and approved of my quarters, which are solitary. Fortunately, my superhost is allowed to do my laundry, which will become necessary in a couple days. I explained that the Sun-Mar composting toilet is a great thing for public health since I won't be flushing any of my germs into the water supply.

A goodie bag of gloves, masks, a thermometer, and hand sanitizer delivered today sits atop the book delivered today, ED Hirsch's The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy.
I am the first one in this rural county that they have needed to monitor. The flight manifest goes from US CDC to the NY Department of Health to the county health department. Then, to connect with me the latter department called the phone number that I had left with CDC in the airport control area. This passing of my personal information takes a couple days, which is not ideal since someone less responsible than I might have been many places in two or three days.

+     +     +

A book arrived in the mail today. I had planned to teach with E.D. Hirsch's  The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, but my school was unable to procure it before the semester started. I bought a copy in Shanghai once and used it with a student in Changchun, about eight years ago so it has been available in China. Anyway, glad to have it and now I can use this quarantine to re-familiarize myself with what Hirsch thinks we all need to know. I loved the original version when I was a kid. There is still a chance that I might end up a little cultured...and my students, too!

I have started to watch Ken Burns' The West on Netflix. Took a nap, as sleep has been intermittent due to various interruptions and the time change. Read Chuchu Manchu's Jar of Toffees to Yaya and the kids before bedtime.

Tonight, I have two 80-minute AP US History classes, one with 3 students and one with 29 so I had better get more prepared. Thanks for reading and please leave comments with questions, gentle criticism/advice, etc. It gives me great joy to be blogging again and to know that you are reading this.
Bonne soirée!

-The Renaissance Man 

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Day Two: The Quietude of Chaos

The Quietude of Chaos is how I have taken to describe the almost month-long lull in activity across China. It is strange not to hear cars on the road at 4 AM. It is odd to look down streets of closed restaurants and see everyone out and about (few, indeed!) in a mask. It is peaceful, but under the veneer of peace, this is wreaking havoc on the Chinese economy and, much more importantly, the lives of its cooped up denizens. This is trauma with no blunt force mechanism-of-injury.

When I was in China, I received abusive messages from trusted, old friends in the United States urging me to come home immediately. For example, a fellow that I have known from college wrote: "What's the longest you can stockpile food? 30 days? 45? 60? Do you 'feel safe' in China? That level of sanctimonious wankery is the face of what's happening." When I explained that I did not want to leave 丫丫 and the kids, my friend said, on February 8, referencing his message from February 2, "Your job as The Bossman is to work out shit to protect your family dude. Up your game. There's little more for me to say to you. I flagged this a fortnight ago." [a fortnight is two weeks]

Now that I have come home, a regular poster on my FB profile (the partner of a friend of mine) asked me, publicly, "Why did you leave your family?" He went on to tell me that they are telling people to quarantine in place and that I did not do the right thing. I asked him to stop posting what were accusatory and personal questions; he continued, so sure is he that he is right about his point-of-view, and I have taken the highly unusual step of blocking someone that I know. It is not that he is saying something that I am unwilling to hear, but it is being said in a way that is unhelpful, that does not give the benefit of the doubt.

We must listen to a different "they" because--as unhelpful as I think the recommendation is--the US Embassy has just reissued it's Level 4 advisory, which is very clear: "Those currently in China should [my emphasis] attempt to depart by commercial means." This may contradict World Health Organization suggestions. Australia's travel ban, followed quickly by New Zealand where there are no confirmed cases, has been economically devastating and is unwarranted in the view of many. (Stay tuned for a subsequent post exploring whether the responses of some nations amount to concerted or independent acts of economic warfare.) What will China or any nation do when a new virus appears with a higher mortality rate and much clearer evidence of human-to-human transmission? (The evidence of human-to-human transmission is still being reviewed.) It seems to me we are "crying wolf" and when people start eating penguins instead of pangolins, contracting some virus that can survive in the icy Antarctic, it is going to be very hard to get the village to come save the sheep before the wolf has consumed them.

When I called someone else yesterday morning, I received a lecture on how I was wasting money (money that I earned, by the way, and would never have opted to spend this way). She told me it is not easy to get health care in North America so this is a bad idea. In her view, I have not thought this through and she told me "you cannot just keep bouncing around the globe." I only have one life. This is a crisis. I think that I have made the right decision, but who can ever be sure? Still, I would say to that person and others who are so quick to attack, "Give me the benefit of the doubt. I have spent a month inside reading everything I could--ranging from Alex Jones' Infowars to the Lancet. I did not do this lightly or capriciously."

It was very difficult to leave 丫丫 and the kids--heartbreaking even, but I am not worried about them at all with regard to the disease. (Much more worried about mental health and stress from the online teaching regime that has swept across a colossally under-prepared nation/industry/profession.) If I was worried, I would not have left. As previous posts have indicated, we just had a day where no new COVID-19 cases were reported in our city (Guangzhou) of 14 million people; there is still only 0.002% chance of being one of the people in my city with it. We live in a very safe island sub-district, which is completely without reported cases, and our community is gated with only residents (and endless streams of deliverymen) allowed to enter and exit. Still, Guangzhou is the second most infected city in Guangdong Province (after Shenzhen). And Guangdong Province has had the second largest number of reported cases outside of Hubei Province, as far as I can know. Data nerds will love this tool below.