Covid-19 Outbreak From a Remote Interpreter’s Viewpoint

Writing at the end of week 1 of my social distancing period, I think I am finally able to calm myself down to write something about COVID-19. I thought it was going to be easy. I was so wrong about it. What do I know? What’s going on? The only thing I know it started with an virus outbreak now it is a pandemic. Governments announced shutdowns on a lot of things, hoping to slow down the spreading of the disease. A lot of people started panicking. I am among these people. I don’t know why. But I want to know how to process this. What is better than a rewind of my memory?

Early in January of 2020, I heard about in China people catching a kind of acute and contagious pneumonia due to some ferocious virus. I didn’t know much about viruses (and I still don’t). I didn’t even know the difference between a virus and a bacteria. However, I remember the SARS outbreak (2002-2004) in China. During that time period, I worked as a TEFL teacher at a public high school in a small but affluent town in Guangdong province. Always head counts in the morning and make sure that no one arrive school sick, the school principal addressed daily. Put the right measures in the right places. No quarantine was needed in our town. Lucky me, I was not in the epicenter of the outbreak. Before I knew it life went back to normal. I wanted to pat myself on the back –  I have survived SARS.

Approaching Chinese Lunar New Year, I heard and read more about the contagious pneumonia, from WeChat messages sent by close family and friends living in mainland China. “No worries. Everyone’s safe and sound and we don’t go out at all.” City by city, province by province, the Chinese government-imposed lockdown and quarantine. The severity of situation had surpassed SARS, I thought.  It’s interesting that I only heard about someone talking about someone else going into self-isolation after a trip to China. Second or Third handed experience of COVID-19 had created a safe distance.

Toward the end of February, I started reading more about COVID-19 through my volunteer translation work for a non-profit organization. The health department of the city sent out notices about the disease and recommended self-care preventive measures. I asked, “Is it here yet?”   Shortly I got to talk with people who were affected by COVID-19 on Boostlingo.

One Saturday I helped a health facility nurse check in on someone in self-isolation. Throughout the call time, no one mentioned COVID-19 or disease or even sickness. They talked about taking temperature twice a day and the readings. The temperature was normal. Both parties were optimistic about the outcome. “Three more days and I am free,” exclaimed the client.  The nurse chimed in, “Yes, three more days. And you can leave your house.”  It’s quite a relief. I could feel the good spirits. I could even imagine the smiles they were wearing on their face after the call ended.

Another time, a university campus coordinator called in to ask for interpretation assistance. An international student was planning to apply for a special accommodation, which would help ease emotional burden caused by the COVID-19 situation back home in China.  The coordinator was very professional, caring and empathetic. The call lasted for an hour. The wonderful staffer made several calls on behalf of the student to assure the right appointments could be scheduled in and good arrangements could be made as soon as possible. The student expressed the anxious feeling but felt grateful that someone who was a stranger a couple of hours before the meeting would go out of the way to help. This call ended. But it left me feeling warm and fuzzy in heart. I felt lucky that I talked with warm and kind people.

It is March now. The month is going to end soon. COVID-19 has officially landed in North America as we may all agree.  The future is full of unpredictable factors. And challenges are be ahead. We may also see the good and the opportunities. We know we can do something instead of letting nature run its course. We individually need to be aware of the safe physical distance. And we need to believe we are in it together. There is always hope. Hope gives you warmth. Do share the warmth whenever you can. After so much worrying and panicking, you can always do something. That is what I am thinking now