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Andrew Lewis: The Pandemic Response in China

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A visitor from China provides Andrew Lewis a window into how the pandemic is being handled elsewhere and the difference is stark.

In the past year we’ve become friends with a young woman visiting from China. Trained at the Culinary Institute of America, she apprenticed as a pastry chef at a Michelin star restaurant in Napa. But with the latest shutdowns in California, she’ll be returning to China. The journey won’t be easy.

She’ll get tested 48 hours before her flight. Then fly 17 hours direct from LA to Shenzhen. She’ll wear an N-95 and protective glasses, including and especially after the flight has landed and people stand to disembark.  She’ll be tested again.  A bus will carry all passengers to a hotel where they’ll quarantine for 14 days. Food will be delivered.

All citizens are issued QR codes on their phones indicating possible exposures. You must scan your QR before entering a building, public space or riding on public transport. Those who have tested positive are not allowed to do so.

If a positive case is detected in China, public health officers do contact tracing and may shut down an entire region to stop the spread of infection.


This is what public health and a sound, fearless, and coordinated pandemic response founded in public solidarity can look like.  It’s also the same playbook shared by other countries on the Pacific Rim, including New Zealand.

The consequence?  Life for nearly 1.5 billion people has returned to normal. People go to work, ride the subway, go to nightclubs, dine indoors and socialize with friends. Hospitals are not overburdened. Few are required to wear masks, though out of courtesy and habit many choose to do so.

On December 1st the New York Times reported the average number of daily new cases in China was 16.

In the US?  161,000.

It’s hard to imagine what it would feel like to have no cases.  It might even feel like freedom.

With a Perspective, this is Andrew Lewis.

Andrew Lewis lives in Sebastopol.

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