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Lily Li started to gain traction on social media by posting first-hand videos of the coronavirus outbreak in her home city of Wuhan, China — sent to her in California from family still living in the pandemic’s initial epicenter. Now, nearly four months after a video of her warning people of the severity of the disease went viral on January 23, the 33-year-old tells Yahoo Life that she’s been self-isolating in the Bay Area for 59 days as of Friday, but she remains hopeful as she watches family and friends in China embrace a new normal on the other side of the curve.
“I kind of feel like I personally experienced this twice. At first, it was my family and my friends in China and that was a total Chinese version of it. And then couple months later, we're catching up and we're doing a whole [American] version of it,” Li explains.
Although cases in China have plateaued at just over 84,000, Li says that in Wuhan — where she’s from originally — medical stations are set up outside of every complex in each community where individuals are tested for the virus on a daily basis before going about their lives. “Everyone gets up in the morning before you go to take that two minutes to sit down and to do the test,” she says. “It's been going for a whole week and three more days. They want to check everyone door to door, every single citizen in Wuhan.”
Li feels that the tactic is “kind of extreme,” however, after dealing with over 67,000 cases in the Hubei province, being on lockdown for over 100 days and hearing about the pandemic every day since January, “the government right now is like enough is enough ... They really want to end this.”
In an effort to move forward, parts of daily life have started to resume, including the re-opening of businesses and even subway commutes to work. In a video on her TikTok, she shows how people have started to more efficiently board and disembark from subway cars and leave space for others in the stations.
Some students have even returned to school after four months of off-campus learning. They’re now adjusting to new protocols, such as multiple daily temperature checks and various sanitization methods. In Wuhan alone, Li explains that over 60,000 students have returned. Most of them, however, are middle school and high school seniors who are testing for high school and college placement.
Both students and teachers are still adjusting to new ways of learning in response to the coronavirus and safety protocols, such as splitting up classes. “They don't want all the students in one classroom to get that capacity full or to 100 percent,” Li says. “So all the teachers are doing 45-minute classes, running back and forth between two classrooms.” Students in other grades continue to do virtual learning, although the majority of teachers have returned to their sanitized classrooms so that they’re able to organize their lessons more efficiently and teach outside of their homes.
“That’s something American schools can watch and maybe learn something from them,” Li says. “It’s not about talking down about Americans. I’m just saying that they had it earlier, and they’re experiencing this earlier. So it’s always good to see where they are struggling and what their solutions are. Maybe some of them we can copy. We can try.”
Still, she acknowledges that the ways that different cities are re-opening in China differ as much as they will throughout different states in the U.S. And while the two countries are likely to go about life post-quarantine much differently, the states can learn from some of the struggles that Wuhan is continuing to experience weeks into its re-opening.
“The Chinese are not celebrating anything,” Li stresses, despite the quarantine being lifted. She goes onto explain that her mother has even described a “post-quarantine PTSD” as people feel uncomfortable re-entering social scenarios after extensive isolation. Even the economic depression took a few weeks to kick in, as small businesses maintained the funds to re-open but faced too much financial pressure after the first few weeks of business that they ended up having to close.
“This couple of weeks, reality is catching up,” she says. “Yes, it’s open. But it’s still a struggle.”
What Li has learned from her family’s experience of the pandemic in China and what she’s gone through herself in California is that things will likely never be the same. “I personally do think that the whole economy and the social dynamic is entirely changed,” she says. “This is going to be our new era.” Still, she doesn’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing.
“Even that sounds depressing. But you need to understand that human beings are all resilient,” Li explains. “You have to keep carrying on and move forward. And then you can learn something and discover something new.”
What Li has learned about herself is that she’s ready to go back to China to spend some time in her native country for the first time in over a decade. In anticipation of what doctors say might be a second wave of the coronavirus, she hopes to continue to educate Americans on how the Chinese are adapting and living during these difficult times, and vice versa.
“This is not over yet,” Li says, maintaining a sense of hope. “We're not going to get back to normal. Let's move forward.”
For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides.
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