". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Letter From Personal Friend in Hong Kong: How To Deal With Coronavirus

     . . . . From a very old dear friend who decamped some years ago to live in Hong Kong:

Yesterday at 6:48 PM ·
Letter to my US friends:

I'm writing this from Hong Kong, where we have been dealing with the coronavirus since the end of January. Hong Kong has been able to fight back the contagion, even though we have an inept, politicized government, and even though we are right on the border with China (which has stayed open through all of this!!!!). Along with Taiwan and Singapore, we have the lowest numbers of cases in Asia (only about 130 in a city of 7.5 million).

You are going through what we went through here in February. Since we're about six weeks ahead of the US on the virus timeline, I'd like to offer a few suggestions about how you can protect each other, based on what Hong Kongers have been doing.

First of all, please try not to panic! But do be ready to (at least temporarily) get very, very OCD about your personal habits. Two major areas of concern:

A: Things you touch.

Basically you don't want to touch ANYTHING with your hands that's been handled by others, and if you have to touch something like a pen, an ATM screen, a door handle, whatever, make it a habit to IMMEDIATELY clean your hands with hand sanitizer. Learn how to open doors with your body or an elbow or a foot. Just be aware of what you put your hands on and try not to touch anything.

Wash your hands several times a day, and not just at home! Get into the habit of doing hand washing "pit stops" whenever you spot a clean public restroom. (Oh--and not to be gross here, but if you do have to use a public restroom, CLOSE THE TOILET LID before flushing. The virus can spread in, um, mist)

My "kit" for when I go out now includes:

1. my own pen (so I don't have to sign things with a communal pen, and it also works for pressing elevator buttons)

2. A small squeeze bottle of alcohol-based sanitizer (it should be 70% alcohol, read the ingredient fine print before purchase and do NOT rely on sanitizer that is made with other chemicals because it isn't as effective--I think Purell is non-alcohol. If the label says "flammable" you have the good stuff.)

3. a bunch of those alcohol prep pads that come in sealed foil packets. These are so I can wipe down my iPhone from time to time, to make sure it's clean. I also use the alcohol pads to clean my computer keyboard, and my KEYS (the virus lingers on metaI). I don't trust the sanitizer wipes, most of them don't have alcohol.

4. A cotton glove--at first I was wearing gloves all the time, but it's actually easier to keep your hands clean than it is to wash contaminated stuff all the time, so I now just keep a glove for situations like a subway, where I might have to hang on to a pole, or the supermarket, where I might have to hold the handle of a basket or cart.

B: Surgical Masks

Yes, I know that our US "experts" have been saying that they are not useful, however this is the ONE practice that we think has made an enormous difference in Hong Kong. Italians didn't put on masks. Hong Kongers, Singaporeans, Taiwanese and most of the rest of Asia are doing it. Here in HK about 99 percent of people are wearing them in public places. I recommend the regular surgical mask, the paper kind. Don't bother with the N95, which is uncomfortable, and kind of overkill.

The experts all say that "masks don't work". It's true that they won't protect you from 100% of virus particles. But in a densely packed city like Hong Kong, or New York, the point of a mask is not to protect yourself--it is a community effort to protect OTHERS. It works if the majority of people cooperate and do it TOGETHER. This virus is spread by carriers who don't have any symptoms, so you have to visualize yourself as a potential carrier and wear it even if you are not feeling ill. Please consider taking up mask-wearing in crowded, closed public places. I hope it catches on in New York City. Personally I would not go on ANY public transport without a surgical mask right now.

IMPORTANT: When you take off the mask, DON"T TOUCH THE OUTSIDE, only handle it by the side loops. It's contaminated! Keep a little plastic baggie on hand to put the mask in after you use it. And DON'T RE-USE a surgical mask--use a new one every time.

Both the obsessive hand hygiene and the mask wearing sound--and at first feel--ridiculous. But seriously it is the major reason why Hong Kong has dodged this bullet against all odds. I've watched in awe these last few weeks as the community came together to protect the people, when the government would not.

The one advantage we have had in Hong Kong is that we have a decent public hospital and health care system. Anyone can go into the ER here, pay about $15 bucks, and get checked and treated and hospitalized if need be. Hospital costs about $15 a day here. What's more Hong Kong has a robust center for disease control that is transparent (we know about EVERY new case as it is discovered, and how it was introduced, and where the sick people have been living and visiting). These are things we don't have in the USA, and it is abominable that we don't. We must demand Medicare for All, nothing less will do. 


Ya.  Here we don't have tests, masks, gloves or health care.

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