Friday, March 13, 2020

Preparing to Return: Broken Refrigerator, No Big Deal?

If there was ever any question or any question left about the competence of our gridlocked legislative branch to cope with this emergency, Senator Mitch McConnell has laid that to rest. Senator Lamar Alexander has indicated that they will not take up the COVID-19 bill from the House until after their recess. Meanwhile, the irresponsible language of those in the Grand Old (Wizard) Party is on full display, despite loud and clear objections from the head of the CDC.

Click here to hear the NPR Fresh Air story.

Today, I heard from an American expat living in Italy on lockdown, asking for advice, which I am reticent to dispense. Sadly, my most important piece of advice was not to follow the advice of the Department of State unless she understood the underlying reason for their recommendations. It was, I believe, a mistake for me to come back to the United States. I have no confidence in this Administration or its hyper-political appointees. The advice that I "should depart by commercial means" (Feb. 2) sent to those receiving alerts from the Department's STEP Program seems to be countermanded by most medical and public health experts.

As I prepare for departure and another two weeks of quarantine or isolation (I am asymptomatic now, but a lot can happen by Wednesday at noon, when I expect to land back in my city in China), there is a lot to think about:
  • I may not see the kids for another couple weeks in an abundance of caution, as they go to live with their grandma during my quarantine (or isolation) period. 
  • I will be asking for any guidance from the Chinese government about how to get from the airport to our apartment, what the arrangement should be inside my home (where the refrigerator has just stopped working!), and anything else I may need to know to comply with the government's mandated "concentrated or home isolation."
  • Remaining safe on the flights is my partner's biggest concern and my parents, but I think the chances of getting something on my journey are maybe less than anywhere else I am out in public.
This is the guidance that I received from my travel agent, "According to the Guangdong Provincial Command for Prevention and Control, all outbound flights to Guangdong, airlines or their agents should inform passengers with a history of travel to 23 countries within 14 days at ticket sales and check-in procedures at outbound airports, after arriving in Guangdong, they will be placed in concentrated or home isolation for 14 days. The 23 nations are: South Korea, Japan, Iran, Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Singapore, the United States, Kuwait, Bahrain, Thailand, the United Kingdom, Australia, Switzerland, Malaysia, Norway, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, Austria, Sweden, and the Netherlands."  The policy was set to go into effect at midnight on the 13th of March or noontime today Boston time. It is excellent that, unlike AirBnB, Dartmouth Coach, and the three rental car agencies with which I have had to deal (Budget, Hertz, and Enterprise), the Chinese government is putting the onus on the ticket sales and check-in agents to inform travelers of their responsibilities.

A visit to the Guangzhou Foreign Affairs Office, yielded little information beyond the reassuring latest figures for COVID-19 cases in Guangdong (as of 24:00, March 10, 2020), which some of my fiercest red-baiting friends will discredit as the propaganda of a totalitarian state, and "How to stay safe from COVID-19 at your workplace?". There is propaganda, of course, but the message sits well with me:
"GDTV World of Guangdong Radio and Television recently invited singer-songwriter Mike from the United States and TV personality Romeo from Italy, two well-known expats living in Guangzhou, to produce an a capella song titled "Let love go viral". The heartwarming tune calls on people from around the world to send love, not hate, to each other amid the COVID-19 epidemic," the site also reports. See the video!
I have been told there may be a five-hour observation period at the airport because people may have been taking masking drugs to avoid showing symptoms. I am not sure if that delay will happen in Beijing or when I get to Guangzhou or not at all, but I do not have sufficient time for that during my currently scheduled layover.  There certainly are reports of airport chaos as China imposes new quarantine rules for returnees.

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