Covid-19: Differences Between China & the US

I’ve lived in Beijing, New York City, and Silicon Valley for most of my life.

I get very concerned when I look at folks trying to somehow gauge how China dealt with Covid-19 and apply it to the US.

Here’s why:

  1. Medical masks. In China, as with other Asian countries, people wear medical masks when they’re sick in an effort to keep others from catching whatever they might have. I would often walk into restaurants and see wait staff and bartenders wearing masks. Masks are also worn when people are concerned about getting sick. There’s no social stigma involved either way.
  2. There are legions of volunteers. They were on full display during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, and are heeding the call to service now.
  3. They have socialized medicine. Testing for Covid-19 is free. Treatment is free. Whatever you can think of paying a bill for in the US is, well, free.
  4. People are paid during time-off for treatment / self-isolation.
  5. There isn’t the religious fanaticism we have in the US.
  6. People aren’t anti-science (for example, anti-vaxxers).
  7. A centralized government means far less competition between levels of government.
  8. When homes and small businesses have air conditioning, it is usually on a per-room basis. That is, very little central air. So, someone can self-isolate in a room and not run as much risk in contaminating the household.
  9. Folks will largely follow orders to stay inside and not to leave a community. Indeed, many communities are cordoned off, with volunteers passing goods over barriers made of corrugated metal siding.
  10. Mass numbers of people (medical personnel, military, etc) can be deployed overnight.
  11. Temperatures have been taken en masse at airports for many years.
  12. Prefab hospitals can be setup in days.
  13. Sars. China was the hardest-hit country in the 2002-2003 Sars outbreak, with a reported 5,327 cases and 349 deaths. The general population takes talk of such outbreaks seriously.
  14. Obesity, and the underlying health conditions associated with it, is far less prevalent.
  15. Although the initial response to the outbreak seems to have been botched, they didn’t have this:
  16. “President Xi Jinping only wears an ordinary medical mask, which sends a signal that we should use masks correctly & not panic. This is in line with the rule that officials in Beijing are not allowed to use N95 masks as they are reserved for medical workers fighting at the front.”
  17. Chinese typically don’t shake hands.
  18. The robust manufacturing infrastructure enabled them to react and remedy the initial blunder. They ramped up PPE production so quickly. (from Sin-Yaw)

I’m going to stop there and revisit this post over the next few days. If you’ve lived in China, and would like to contribute, feel free to leave comments and I’ll add them to the post.