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SARS and the Coronavirus

February 14, 2020 — Leave a comment

With the outbreak of the Coronavirus, it has brought back many memories of when I was teaching at a university in China in 2003. If you recall, that was when SARS broke out. I am going to share a photograph with you from the end of the SARS outbreak.

People were truly frightened by SARS, and rightfully so. For anyone who hasn’t been to China and witnessed the population density, well, you just can’t imagine how many people live in close proximity to one another. That is how a virus can spread so quickly in China.

To help you understand, I will share with you what the director of the special needs orphanage told me when she shared with me that the main thing she wanted when we remodeled the kitchen was a dishwasher.  Believe me, there were several pressing needs to be addressed when we remodeled the kitchen; but she told me that the reason she wanted a dishwasher so badly was that, when one child got sick, they all got sick. She had no way to sterilize the dishes, so what she told me made perfect sense! Does that help you understand how quickly a virus can spread in China?

At the university, I truly felt sorry for the freshmen. They were all at a different campus outside of town, and nobody was allowed to leave. So, these were 18 year old students away from home for the first time, and they couldn’t go home or leave the campus. For me, if I wanted to leave the campus, which was in the city, I had to wear a badge; and I had to wear the badge to return to the campus. Honestly, back then the air quality was so ugly that many people were wearing masks before the SARS virus infected so many people. The university did all they could to protect everyone. The classrooms, offices, and apartments for the teachers were all sprayed with a liquid designed to kill germs. I think the local TV station sent a crew to film this, so everyone would know the government was doing all it could, and so the parents of the students could have fewer worries.

When the semester was over, which ended a week early because a holiday had been canceled due to the travel restrictions, I took a bus from my small city to Shanghai. Before we left the small city, our temperature was taken. A Chinese cardiologist was sitting near me who spoke English very well, and I became very thankful for him. As we approached Shanghai, the bus pulled off the road by a large tent. The doctor told me we were going to walk through the tent and have our temperature taken. At the end of the tent was a large opening, and if we were told to go to the left, that meant we didn’t have a temperature and we could get back on the bus. If we were told to go to the right, that meant we had a temperature, and we would be taken to some unknown location for at least 2 weeks, and nobody would be able to communicate with us. Yes, that got my attention, and I knew I didn’t want to be put into a quarantine facility! 

I am thankful to say that I survived SARS! Hopefully this story will help you to have compassion for those in the Coronavirus prone areas. Please remember the population density is a huge factor there, and like my friend said — if one child gets sick, they all get sick!