Thursday, March 31, 2022

Lockdown Diaries: Covid Case in Our Complex, and Free Veggies from the Government

An example of the free groceries someone got in Shanghai. Yeah ours are definitely not as good as these. Image source. (This link has a lot of photos, you can see the whole range of quality of the goodie bags, for different parts of Shanghai.)

Posts about the covid outbreak in Shanghai, China:

On the Current Covid Outbreak in Shanghai (March 12)

I'm in Lockdown (March 16)

I'm Still in Lockdown (March 19)

I'm in Lockdown Again (March 25)

Now All of Pudong (East Shanghai) is in Lockdown (March 28)

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Many fun updates from me!

First, the timeline:

March 16-21: first lockdown. 6 days.

March 23- now (March 31): second lockdown. 9 days and counting.

Got covid-tested by the pandemic workers in white hazmat suits 8 times. (March 16, 17, 19, 20, 23, 26, 28, 30)

The above stats are specific to our apartment complex. Everywhere else in Shanghai has a similar story but the dates and numbers won't be exactly the same.

Starting March 28, all of Pudong (the east half of Shanghai) is in lockdown. It was planned to end on April 1, but I am skeptical. And the west half, Puxi, will be in lockdown starting on April 1. (Though obviously many places in Puxi are already in lockdown, if they've been judged to have a risk of having covid cases there.)

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Emma Leaning shows us what happens if you test positive:

Emma Leaning is a British woman living in Shanghai. She and her husband Shane Leaning recently tested positive and posted their experiences on Twitter. Shane was sent to a hospital, and Emma was sent to the quarantine center at the World Expo. (They were separated because initially Emma tested negative- she later tested positive and that's when she was sent to the World Expo quarantine center.) Please do go read their Twitter threads to see what conditions are like there:

Thread from Shane:

Thread from Emma:

In particular, this video about Emma's experience at the quarantine center is worth watching:

Basically you can see that the quarantine facilities for covid-positive patients are not that great, just kind of bare-minimum, a lot of beds, no showers, hope you brought your own toilet paper.

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Covid case in our apartment complex:

So we found out that somebody in our apartment complex tested positive. Here's what that means:

Person who tested positive: They get taken in an ambulance to the quarantine center. Actually, they first quarantined at home for 2 days, because there wasn't space at the quarantine center, and then the ambulance came and got them.

People who live in the same building as the covid-positive person: They have to all quarantine at home for 14 days. Not allowed to leave the building. Whether or not they can go down to the first floor to throw away trash or pick up deliveries is up to the apartment management. If the apartment management is not even allowing them to come out of their homes at all, then the apartment management has to send people to each household to pick up their garbage and drop off deliveries. Also, they have to get covid-tested several times during those 14 days.

People who live in the same apartment complex: They have to all quarantine at home for 14 days. Whether or not they can at least walk around outside is up to the apartment management, but definitely can't leave the apartment complex. Also, have to get covid-tested several times during those 14 days.

So I fall into the "same apartment complex but not the same building" category. Even though Pudong's lockdown is (supposedly) ending on April 1 (and we are in Pudong), our apartment complex will not be opening.

I feel bad for the covid-positive person- apparently they went grocery shopping on March 22, and that must be where they were infected. It's not their fault. And now they probably feel like everyone in our complex is judging them.

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Groceries:

Okay, this is a PROBLEM. Before March 28 (when all of Pudong went into lockdown), it was tough to place orders on grocery delivery apps, but I managed to successfully get food delivered about every 2-3 days. But on March 28, that all changed, and now it's virtually impossible. Yes, for 4 days, I have tried several times a day, checking several different apps, and none of them allow me to place orders for groceries. (Either the store is closed, or they have too many orders already, or they say they can't deliver to this address.) 

(Weirdly, though, I ordered cat litter from a pet store and it was delivered half an hour later, no problem. So apparently pet stores are not having the same overwhelming demand that grocery stores are...)

I have seen a lot of tips shared on WeChat about "for Dingdong Maicai, you have to set your alarm for 5:50 am, and place your order at exactly 6" like what the little tricks are for each platform.  I have tried those tips, and still failed.

So the volunteers in our apartment complex are helping us all get very basic groceries. Like, very basic. They post in the group chat "there are bags of vegetables for 30 kuai" and we can reply to say if we want that. You don't have options, it's just whatever random vegetables are in the bag. They get delivered about 2 days later.

Also, the government has been distributing a free bag of groceries to each household. This is organized by the local government, so you get totally different stuff depending on what part of Shanghai you live in. People have been posting photos of their free groceries on WeChat- it's always a bunch of fresh vegetables, and sometimes meat like pork or chicken, sometimes tofu, sometimes a carton of milk, sometimes some fresh fruit, sometimes noodles. There is a lot of variation in how good these goodie bags are, and everyone is very excited to compare on WeChat.

We got ours today, and it's just vegetables. Cauliflower, mushrooms, and a few other things. So, kind of disappointed about that. Like, yes, we very much need the fresh vegetables, but... other people elsewhere in Shanghai got meat...

Now people have started getting together with their neighbors to buy things in bulk. Somebody has a contact at a grocery store who can get us eggs, but only if we buy 300 cartons of them, and so they are making a sign-up list for people in our apartment complex to buy them.

So it looks like that's how we'll be getting groceries for the foreseeable future. Which is okay, we'll survive, but we don't have much choice, and definitely can't get anything that Chinese people don't consider a staple. For example, we're out of pasta.

Honestly, this grocery situation is not okay. How has the city of Shanghai failed so badly at making sure grocery stores in Pudong could stay open and accessible during the lockdown?

To give another example: Epermarket is a grocery store that markets toward international people in China. On March 28, the first day of the Pudong lockdown, they posted an update on WeChat to say they are not able to cross the river from Puxi to Pudong, and so they aren't able to deliver in Pudong that day. It took a few days, but eventually they did deliver those things in Pudong. I don't understand this- why was there uncertainty about a grocery service being allowed to enter Pudong during lockdown? Why did it take 2-3 days to get this resolved? Why was it not obvious to everyone that a grocery store is an essential business and therefore shouldn't be restricted like that? If there were hoops they had to jump through- like maybe covid-testing all their employees, or disinfecting their store- why was that not done immediately when the lockdown was announced?

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Pets:

Apparently the official announcement about the Pudong lockdown said people are not allowed to go outside at all. This is kind of open to interpretation- obviously you can't leave your apartment complex (the gates are blocked), but some complexes are more relaxed about it, and they say if you need to go outside, just go real quick and come back. Like if you need to pick up a delivery or take out the trash or whatever. (Our complex is relaxed like this.)

But some complexes are not allowing people to go outside at all. So, people ask, how will we walk our dogs? Some complexes are not even allowing people to walk their dogs- the dog owners have to set up fake grass inside their home and try to convince their dog to pee on it. That's completely ridiculous. (There are also some middle-ground apartment complexes, where a volunteer will walk your dog, but you still can't go outside.)

And also, there is worry about what will happen to your pets if you test positive. Basically, you have to find someone to come get your pets and take them out of your home, before you go to central quarantine. We have heard about situations in other cities in China where pandemic workers killed pets. So... right, seems like the policy in Shanghai is that you can let someone else come get your pets, and that you should communicate with the apartment management about it, no need to sneak around. (Emma Leaning mentioned in her Twitter thread that she was able to hand off her 2 dogs to someone before going to quarantine- her dogs are safe.) The issue is what if your apartment management is being jerks and doesn't want to help you? Which is apparently happening- I have seen WeChat posts of people who tested positive and are desperately looking for someone to come get their pets. And I've seen vets and pet boarding services posting information about what to do, and about how to get connected with other pet owners who can help you.

Yeah, this is ****ed up. The Shanghai government should have a clear policy about this, so there is a place for the pets to go and no one has to worry that the pets will be killed, wtf.

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Perfect Number is Very Disappointed in Shanghai's Management:

Yeah, I'm shocked. Mostly about the lack of access to groceries. How is Shanghai this bad at it? It's been 4 days, and I haven't been able to get any groceries delivered, except for the very basic ones that our apartment volunteers got for us.

Shanghai is a world-class, modern, international city, with very good infrastructure, very efficient and convenient. I thought, we're not like those smaller Chinese cities, we won't have the logistical problems they've had during their lockdowns. I'm really shocked at this. Seriously, why am I not able to order groceries, from ANYWHERE? (Except our nice building leaders, who bring bags of random vegetables.) That's... how???

It is nice to see neighbors coming together to help each other. It's nice to see so many people volunteering, and all the pandemic workers working so hard. People everywhere in the world are like that- when there is a need, people will step up and help. So that's good. We're going to get through this. But look at me, I'm kind of changing my tune a little, I've always been so confident about how Shanghai does things, but now they are failing.

I am hoping that, even though we will still be in lockdown for a while, some places in Pudong will open on April 1, and that will make it easier for me to order groceries. We will see.

Good night everyone ~ I will post more updates as they happen.

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Follow-up post: Lockdown Diaries: Antigen Self-Tests, and Children with Covid

Monday, March 28, 2022

Now All of Pudong (East Shanghai) is in Lockdown

A pot for cooking hot pot, with a barrier in the middle to divide the two different kinds of soup. One side is labelled "浦西" (Puxi) and the other is "浦东" (Pudong). Source: WeChat.

Posts about the covid outbreak in Shanghai, China:

On the Current Covid Outbreak in Shanghai (March 12)

I'm in Lockdown (March 16)

I'm Still in Lockdown (March 19)

I'm in Lockdown Again (March 25)

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Well I am exhausted from working from home, taking care of a toddler, cooking, and laundry. My husband is doing half the work but wowwww this is just exhausting. Lockdown life.

Anyway, I have to post this update: So last night, the city of Shanghai announced that Pudong will be totally locked down from March 28 to April 1 (lockdown ends at 5 am on April 1), and then Puxi will be in lockdown from April 1 to April 5. Pudong is the half of Shanghai east of the Huangpu River, and Puxi is the half of Shanghai west of the Huangpu River.

I live in Pudong, by the way.

This is a huge big deal. It was announced around 8:30 pm last night (March 27), and suddenly everyone in Pudong (11 million people) realized they only had a few hours to prepare. I saw several videos on WeChat (Chinese social media app) of people crowding into the grocery stores and buying all the food, even fighting over the vegetables. Obviously I was not there, because I am already in lockdown- as I've covered in my previous blog posts, my apartment complex has been in lockdown since March 23, so that's 6 days so far (which is actually the second lockdown- the first we had was March 16-21). The lockdowns I've blogged about these past few weeks have been like, neighborhood-level, but now it's all of Pudong locked down at the same time.

It's... a bit weird that they're doing it one half of the city at a time. Some people are saying "Why don't they just shut down all of Shanghai at the same time? We would be able to get rid of this covid outbreak faster that way." During the past few weeks, though, the government of Shanghai has said several times that they're not shutting down the entire city- so maybe now they feel like they can't, because they said they wouldn't. I don't know. Shanghai has something like 25 million people- doing a lockdown for a city that big is a huge task; maybe it makes sense to do one half at a time.

Lots of memes going around on WeChat last night. People making jokes like "We are not shutting down the whole city! We are only shutting down 2 areas: Pudong and Puxi." (I'll explain the joke: Pudong + Puxi is the whole city of Shanghai.)

Someone else noticed that the Puxi lockdown starts at 3 am on April 1, and the Pudong lockdown ends at 5 am on April 1, so they said here's what you do if you want to avoid lockdown- you start in Puxi, then jump into the Huangpu River at 3 am, then swim around for 2 hours, and get out on the Pudong side at 5 am.

And also memes with a picture of a pot at a hot pot restaurant- the pot has 2 sections, with different soup in each side, and the sides are labelled "Puxi" and "Pudong." 

Personally I find all of those jokes hilarious. :D

Anyway let me give you a little background about Pudong and Puxi. I live in Pudong now, but I have lived in Puxi in the past. I work in Puxi- so yeah, 5 days a week, I take the subway and it crosses under the river, from Pudong to Puxi. (Obviously I don't do that now that I've been working from home for 2 weeks.) A lot of people live in one half and work in the other half. It's not unusual at all. It's not hard to go from Pudong to Puxi- seriously, take a look at the Shanghai subway map:

Okay this one is not even totally up-to-date because it's missing line 14 and half of line 18, but you get the idea. Image source.

See the river going through there? That's the line between Puxi (west) and Pudong (east). So most of the main downtown area is in Puxi, but it's not like Pudong is far away in the middle of nowhere or anything. (However, most of my friends live in Puxi, and there are always jokes about how "your friends move to Pudong and then you never see them again because it's SO FAR AWAY" and "I have to leave early because I LIVE IN PUDONG and it takes an hour to get home" etc.)

Actually, let me give you a rundown of the posts I've made with photos I've taken around Shanghai, and which ones are Puxi and which ones are Pudong:

Puxi:
Lego Store at People's Square
Starbucks Reserve Roastery
Hongqiao Train Station
Shanghai Botanical Garden
Yuyuan Garden
Natural History Museum
Sheshan

Pudong:
Line 14 (is in both Puxi and Pudong but my photos are all in the Pudong part)
"Jurassic World" Exhibition 
Disney Store at Lujiazui 
Line 6 and Line 2 (Line 6 is entirely in Pudong, Line 2 is in both, but my photos are all in the Pudong part)
Disneyland

(Wowwww I told myself "I'll just write a quick blog post and then go to bed" and here I am scrolling back through my "travel" blog posts all the way back to 2016...)

Okay but now you get the idea about Pudong and Puxi. Two halves of the city, kind of each have their own personality, but really not separate at all- people are crossing back and forth on subways, bridges, tunnels, and ferries ALL THE TIME. Except now, because we are in a lockdown that separates the two halves.

So. Uh. Where was I... So last night, it kind of felt like, suddenly things are getting worse. This is kind of the first time I've felt like a lot of people in Shanghai are mad about the lockdowns. Seeing the videos of people panic-buying all the vegetables... it's not good.

I do feel like the government and the pandemic control people in Shanghai have been doing a good job, given the circumstances, but... this kind of lockdown is just not good. In a city of 25 million people, you suddenly create this much of a disruption to everyone's lives, and inevitably there must be people who aren't able to get food, or medicine, or medical care. (Yes, there are systems set up to help with that, but it's all thrown together so fast, inevitably it won't work 100% of the time.) And a lot of people who aren't getting paid because they're not able to work- yes, to some extent the government requires companies to keep paying their employees anyway, but that doesn't even necessarily apply to all jobs.

At this point, I still believe letting omicron run around everywhere unchecked would be worse than these lockdowns... But a lockdown is still not a good thing. Not anywhere near as bad as everyone getting covid, getting into the kind of situation Hong Kong is having right now... but still bad. And it seems like China is kind of starting to think about "we have to transition into a different strategy than zero-covid, but without having tons of people die..." I don't know what will happen... But yeah, the more "zero-covid" we are here, the more impossible it is for me to see my family...

Anyway... Today on WeChat I see all the restaurants and grocery stores making posts like "We are still able to deliver to Puxi, but if you ordered and you live in Pudong, we will have to cancel your order because the delivery drivers aren't able to cross the river" or "All of our employees are in lockdown, we are in the process of working with the government to find out if we're allowed to open or not."

Oh also, another fun update: Today (March 28) we got covid-tested. Also, March 26 we got covid-tested. So, woo, new record I guess, now the total is 7 times that our entire apartment complex has been tested in these mass testing initiatives. I am really really really sure I don't have covid.

Oh, and on March 26, Shanghai distributed some 14 million antigen home tests (ie, test yourself for covid at home). Our apartment complex didn't get them because we are in lockdown and getting tested by the 大白 (dà bái)- this literally translates to "big white" and it's the slang term for the pandemic control workers in white hazmat suits. (Also, Baymax from the movie "Big Hero 6" is called 大白 (dà bái) in Chinese but I don't think that's related? Gives me a laugh, though, to imagine the quarantine workers are a bunch of Baymaxes.) Anyway, on March 26 I saw lots of people posting on WeChat about their self-tests. Very excited to share a picture of what you shoved up your nose, I guess? Apparently if it's positive, you're legally required to report it. 

(If it's negative, you're legally required to share it on social media LOLLLLL just joking, wow I kind of feel like I am way too tired to be blogging because this made me laugh so much.)

To be honest though, I don't really get where self-tests fit into China's anti-covid strategy. Kind of seems like it's signaling a change in the strategy. Because, up till now, if there's actually a possibility you might have covid, you need to be tested by an actual professional and definitely put in a government-designated quarantine facility if you're positive... and if there's not really a possibility you have covid, then the reason you're getting tested must be because an airline requires it or whatever, so still you need a professional to do it and give you the right documentation.

Aiiiiiiiii all right there you have it, Perfect Number is really too tired to be writing a whole long blog post tonight, but here we are. Will post more updates as they come. Pudong's lockdown ends at 5 am on April 1, but that doesn't necessarily mean our specific apartment complex will end lockdown then... 

Oh, and I guess I should reassure you all, I'm fine, my husband and son are fine, we are doing okay in lockdown and are lucky that our situation isn't as bad as some of the other things we've heard in Shanghai.

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Shanghai to lock down each half of city for mass Covid-19 testing (March 27) This article from CNN gives a good description of how things are here, but I just found it super super weird that the article never actually uses the words "Pudong" and "Puxi." It says "The eastern half of the city -- comprising around 11 million residents"- umm, this is Pudong. It's... It's not like it's a complicated word that you can only understand if you speak Chinese... It's literally the name of the geographical area that is now in lockdown. Seems like they could have said "The Pudong region, which is the eastern half of the city -- comprising around 11 million residents". Is it normal that news articles about the goings-on in foreign countries don't actually use the words that the people living there would use? Like of course I don't expect you to know what Pudong is if you don't live in Shanghai, but it doesn't really feel like they're reporting the news accurately if they don't say the word "Pudong" when the news is "Pudong is in lockdown." I don't know, maybe just my opinion...

China doesn't have a Covid exit plan. Two years in, people are fed up and angry (March 25) Also from CNN. I mean, yeah, this is all true, but that doesn't mean things are going to change. 

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Follow-up post: Lockdown Diaries: Covid Case in Our Complex, and Free Veggies from the Government

Friday, March 25, 2022

I'm in Lockdown Again

In Shanghai, pandemic workers in white hazmat suits receive a food delivery. Image source.

Posts about the covid outbreak in Shanghai, China:

On the Current Covid Outbreak in Shanghai (March 12)

I'm in Lockdown (March 16)

I'm Still in Lockdown (March 19)

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Okay, so.

I mean, it's really not that exciting. Lockdown is just, the same tediousness of being stuck at home and trying to get work done on my computer while my son fusses because he wanted to watch a *different* dinosaur video than the one he is watching. And cooking our own food, and worrying about if we can get groceries delivered or not.

But anyway, this is a big news story, the covid outbreak in Shanghai, so I have a duty to tell you readers all about it.

Okay basic timeline of our apartment complex's lockdowns:

(Definition of "lockdown": we're not allowed to leave our apartment complex. We can walk around outside, but the gates of the complex are blocked. We can still get things delivered- there is a shelf at the main gate where deliveries get dropped off, then we have to walk over there and get them. There are some specific exceptions, reasons that you can get out of lockdown, like if you're an essential worker or you need medical treatment, that sort of thing.)

Wednesday, March 16: Our first lockdown starts. We are told it will be 48 hours. Everyone in the apartment complex is required to get covid-tested.

Thursday, March 17: We all (entire apartment complex) get covid-tested a second time.

Friday, March 18: We thought the lockdown was going to end, but it didn't, because the apartment management hadn't gotten the official notice from the government that they were allowed to open the doors. Instead, on Friday night there's an official notice that we are doing another 48-hour lockdown and we have to get covid-tested two more times.

Saturday, March 19: We all get covid-tested.

Sunday, March 20: We all get covid-tested.

Monday, March 21: Finally, in the evening, they announce that our lockdown has ended. HOORAY everyone is excited. (The lockdown lasted 6 days.)

Tuesday, March 22: Yay no lockdown! We ordered food from a restaurant and it was delivered right to our door instead of the apartment complex gate. We (me, my husband, and son) didn't go out anywhere that day, but hey, we COULD HAVE.

Wednesday, March 23: In the morning, we are notified that we are in lockdown again. No idea how long this one will be. We all get covid-tested. (Fun math fact: Our whole apartment complex has been covid-tested 5 times. As far as I know, the results are all negative.)

Thursday, March 24: Still in lockdown. 

Friday, March 25 (today): Yep still in lockdown. (This second lockdown has lasted 3 days so far, don't know when it will end.)

So overall: 6 days of lockdown, then 1 day of being allowed out, then 3 days of lockdown. 5 covid tests.

This is the situation in the apartment complex where I live. The rest of Shanghai has similar scenarios, though the exact numbers (how many days of lockdown, how many rounds of mass testing) will be different.

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Groceries:

Lol, remember last week when I was complaining because my grocery delivery was supposed to come at 11:45 but instead it came at 2:45? Man, I WISH I could order stuff on an app and have it come 3 hours later than expected. Now I can barely get anything to come.

There are a bunch of different apps I use that can deliver groceries, and it's like this: Oh, can't order from this store because it's closed. Oh, this one says it can't ship anything to our address. Oh, for this one, I put a bunch of things in my cart, and then at check-out I'm supposed to select the delivery time, but there are no options available for that, so I can't actually place an order. Oh, for this other one, I placed an order successfully, but then the store called me and said they actually can't, so they cancelled it.

I have been checking various apps several times a day to see if there are any options for groceries, and on a few rare occasions, I've actually gotten an order delivered successfully, so yay, I guess.

Like, this is hard for me, and I'm the kind of person who's really organized, always using different apps to compare the prices, I have backup plans for my backup plans. I can read Chinese and have no problem at all using Chinese apps, and my husband is good at cooking with the normal ingredients you find in an average Chinese grocery store, don't need any special imported things. I say it's "hard for me"- I don't mean like we're worried about starving, I mean like, we might have to heat up frozen dumplings, we can't get the kind of milk we like so we have to switch to the kind that's in boxes and doesn't require refrigeration (and we almost ran out of that too), and we might run out of animal crackers, which are a staple food in our house.

Like, we're not going to starve, but we are going through our freezer like "oh what's this? I didn't know this meat was in here. Could we have this for dinner?"

(Good news, yesterday I did successfully get a big grocery order delivered, so at least for now I am not concerned about it.)

But anyway, yeah, this grocery situation has got to be unbearable for people who are less organized, or can't cook that many things, or don't normally buy things on their phones, or can't read Chinese...

Also, our apartment complex now has a WeChat group for ordering fresh vegetables/meat/rice- the very basic staples for Chinese cooking, that's it. This group... it's not that organized. People post messages about what food they want to buy, and the vendor doesn't reply to any of them. Then the food came in a big van that stopped at the gate of our apartment complex, and I went out to get ours, and they didn't have it. I had to stand around for a long time before the vegetable guy finally checked and he said you had to place your order before noon on the previous day, so that's why they don't have it. Which is ridiculous, because A LOT of people posted in the group to place orders after we did (and apparently they didn't get their food either) but the group mod never replied to say clearly when the deadline was. Just basically doing a bad job of managing a group with over a hundred people.

We have had better luck with the leader for our specific building- she sometimes posts in our building's WeChat group to say she can get vegetables for us, or she can get a pallet of 30 eggs, and she is reliable about answering messages and actually bringing the food.

I have seen jokes on social media about how green vegetables are a luxury item now, lol.

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Health code:

So this morning (March 25) the city of Shanghai posted on their WeChat to say that anyone who hasn't been covid-tested since March 16 needs to get covid-tested, and if they don't, their health code will turn yellow tonight at 6 pm.

Let me explain the health codes. I have mentioned it on my blog before but I haven't done a whole explainer so here we go:

Actually there are 2 different ones:

Health code (called 随身码 or 健康码):

This one requires you to log in with your name and ID number. I am not sure what data it uses exactly, but it seems like it can be more like, customized to you personally (ie, the powers-that-be can use it to flag you), unlike the "travel code" which is simply your 14-day travel history. As I said, the city of Shanghai announced that anyone who hadn't been covid-tested since March 16 will have their health code turn yellow- so it has access to the data about when you personally have been covid-tested.

The health code is a green QR code, which is apparently able to be scanned so that places can keep a log of everyone who was there. Seems that nobody actually does this though- mine has never been scanned. The security guard just looks at it and waves you through. (Who knows, maybe since we're in an outbreak now, they've started actually scanning them. I have no idea because I haven't gone anywhere since March 9.)

If you're low-risk, it's green. If you're medium- or high-risk, it's yellow or red, respectively. That's never happened to me; I've always been green.

Example health code. Image source.


Travel code (行程码):

The "travel code" uses your phone's SIM card (I think- I think it's the SIM card and not GPS) to check where you have travelled in the past 14 days. If you haven't been in any medium-risk or high-risk places, then it will show a green arrow. (This one is a simple arrow, not a QR code.)

I guess it could also be yellow or red to indicate medium- or high-risk places, but that's never happened to me.

Also, under the arrow, it has a list of the cities you've travelled to in the past 14 days. Sometimes, even though your arrow is green, you have a city in your list with an asterisk. Like this: 上海市*. That means that city has had medium- or high-risk areas within the past 14 days, but you personally did not go to those specific areas, so you're fine.

(Well, actually. Some cities have rules about not allowing people to enter if they come from a city with an asterisk. So that can be an issue if you're trying to travel.)

As far as I know, the "travel code" doesn't need your actual real name or any other personal information, just your phone number. And then it looks up your travel history based on that.

Travel code. Image source.


Both of these codes have been in use for about 2 years. Here is basically how I've seen them used:

Restaurants, subway stations, taxis: nobody checks

Malls: There is a security guard who is checking. You can show them either the health code or travel code, no need to show both. They don't really care. Actually you could even show them a screenshot of somebody else's, because they're not looking closely enough to notice. (You are definitely not supposed to do that though.) Children don't need a health code.

Tourist sites, the subway station right next to the airport, and other places where you'll have people from out-of-town: They are more serious about checking. Still only need to show 1 of the codes, and still not required for children.

Hospitals: They check both the health code and the travel code. (But not needed for children.)

Airports: I don't remember if they were checking one code or both, but the key thing about the airport was they were requiring health codes for children too. My kid doesn't have a phone obviously, so we had to fill out a paper with his information, which wasn't that much of an inconvenience. Apparently there's also a way you can add a child health code to your own account.

Anyway. Yeah there's been a lot of mass testing over the past week or so, but it is definitely possible to avoid. We could have been hiding people in here and no one would know. There totally are people with legitimate reasons to not be at home during the lockdowns, and I don't think Shanghai is really trying to track down every single individual person... I think they're just turning the health codes yellow, which will be an issue when those people try to enter a public place. (And probably the security guards will be paying more attention to checking the health codes now because we're actually having an outbreak.)

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Overall: Well I'm tired of being in lockdown. Things are fine for me personally, and Shanghai is doing a good job overall (though there are things that aren't working as efficiently as they should- but that's just what happens in a lockdown), but man I am tired of staying at home. It's been 2 weeks. I would like to send my kid to daycare. And go out places. Go to the office. Go out and see friends.

We really have no idea how long this will last. Probably 1-2 months, I would guess.

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With Fresh Urgency, China Pleads With Seniors to Get Vaccinated (March 25)

Locals Detained for Avoiding Virus Tests, Flouting COVID-19 Rules (March 24)

Shanghai’s Lifeline Amid COVID-19: Delivery Workers and Volunteers (March 23)

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Follow-up post: Now All of Pudong (East Shanghai) is in Lockdown

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Blogaround

Movie poster for "Turning Red." Image source.

1. Tom Hiddleston and Zawe Ashton Are Engaged (posted March 17)

2. Former Christianity Today editor Mark Galli accused of sexual harassment (posted March 15) and Sexual Harassment Went Unchecked at Christianity Today (posted March 15)

3. Why don't Jigsaw Puzzles have the correct number of pieces? (posted March 4) YES, THANK YOU, "Stand-up Maths" is asking the REAL QUESTIONS. This guy wrote a python script to predict the actual number of pieces, based on the claimed number of pieces, the dimensions of the puzzle, factors, ratios, and some subjective opinion stuff about quantifying how wrong it would be to have weird long pieces and/or a number way off from the claimed amount. I LOVE IT.

(Yeah I remember I was SO MAD when I was a teenager and liked to do 1000-piece puzzles and I discovered that actually it's not *EXACTLY* a thousand pieces! Probably about as mad as when I found out about "unabridged dictionaries"- WHAT, you mean all the words aren't in the REGULAR DICTIONARY???!!!)

4. We saw the new Pixar movie, "Turning Red," and I loved it. It's about a Chinese-Canadian 13-year-old girl, and I am happy to tell you that it has my Chinese husband's stamp of approval.

5. No Digits. No Clues. No Hope?! (posted 2021) A 1-hour sudoku video. I love it so much.

6. At the Bottom of an Icy Sea, One of History’s Great Wrecks Is Found (posted March 9) "The wreck of Endurance has been found in the Antarctic, 106 years after the historic ship was crushed in pack ice and sank during an expedition by the explorer Ernest Shackleton." This is INCREDIBLE.

7. Star Wars is Really a Cautionary Tale About Devoting All Technological Advancements to Death (posted 2018) "This means that these trash disposers, which have entrance points to permit living beings in and out of them, have no software for the purpose of detecting certain types of life and powering down on detecting that presence. It would seem the most obvious type of software to have in area so casually dangerous…and yet there’s nothing whatsoever."

8. Deconstructing Jealousy (posted 2016) "I don’t think that 'jealousy' is a useful concept. It’s used as an umbrella term for a variety of negative interpersonally-triggered feelings that are actually quite different from each other. Unfortunately, people don’t always realize this and may communicate about 'jealousy' without noticing that they’re talking about different things. ... I’ve identified six different feelings that are often called 'jealousy.'"

9. China's zero-Covid policy is showing signs of strain. But ditching it now could be a disaster (posted March 21) "'The problem is that if you continue to highlight the danger of the disease and demonize the pandemic response efforts of other countries, it means that the fear in the public won't fade away, and that makes moving away from a zero-Covid strategy difficult,' said CFR's Huang."

Sunday, March 20, 2022

If your relationship isn't seen as "Marriage", not sure what green card options you have

A man and woman hug each other as they are reunited at an airport. Image source.

The topic for March 2022's Carnival of Aces is "Which protections do we asexuals need in law?" so I wanted to talk a bit about immigration. I am a US citizen, living in China, and my husband is a Chinese citizen. We are currently in the process of applying for a US green card for him.

It's interesting, how the US green card system is set up to privilege one certain kind of family structure: couples who are monogamous, heterosexual, living together, in a sexual relationship, possibly having kids together. (I put "heterosexual" in the list because, even though same-sex marriage is legal in the US, it is not legal in China, so the options for an American/Chinese same-sex couple living in China are more limited. I guess they would have to go to another country [could be the US, but need to apply for the right visa first] to get married, and then after that, the Chinese partner could apply for the US green card.)

And, lucky for us, my husband and I do fit that family structure. And we have a kid. So nobody in an immigration office is going to question us and say our marriage is fake. But I know a lot of asexuals aren't interested in that kind of relationship. Don't want to get married, or don't want to have sex- but do want to have deep, committed, life-partner-type relationships. I have seen asexuals blogging about wanting that kind of relationship, which society would call "roommates" but it's every bit as real and loving as a marriage. Or an asexual who wants to live with a married couple and help them take care of their kids. Or an asexual in a poly relationship.

So as a US citizen, you find someone or someones that you want to spend your life with, and if they are from another country, then you can help them get a US green card if your relationship is what society would call "marriage." But if your relationship structure is something else, then I am not sure what options you have. If you look at this webpage, about eligibility for a US green card, in the "Family" section it's all like, spouse, adopted child, parent, to a lesser extent there are also green cards available for siblings but there's a longer wait time, and so on. ... There's no, uh, "non-sexual partner" or anything.

Well, let's say you're two asexuals in a non-sexual non-romantic life-partner-type of relationship, and you decide "let's just get a marriage license anyway, for the legal benefits, even though we don't view our relationship as marriage." Well, you also might run into problems applying for a green card. It's not enough to have a marriage license- you also have to have evidence that your marriage is "bona fide." Things like, photos from your wedding, rental contracts that show that you live together, joint bank accounts, having children together, letters from friends that say you are really a couple, etc. (You don't need all of those, but those are examples of the sorts of things they want to see.) Basically evidence that you have the sort of relationship that society calls "marriage" and you're not just getting a marriage license to commit immigration fraud.

I honestly don't know how realistic it is for this hypothetical asexual couple- I haven't done research into that, because it's not the situation I'm in. Maybe it's possible to get a spouse green card with someone you're not having sex with, but I don't know. I have heard anecdotes about being questioned about your sex life at the visa interview, though I don't know how common that is. I'm sure it won't happen to us because we literally have a child together.

I know they want to put limits on what kind of relationship is eligible for the green card because they can't just let anyone and everyone immigrate in... I guess... but those of you who read my blog know I am very pro-immigrants. I am an immigrant in China; I know what it is to have your right to stay in the country dependent on some bureaucracy nonsense that HR is supposed to be helping you with but they're not taking it seriously- no one should have to feel that anxiety. 

Growing up in the US, I always totally believed that I could go live in any country I wanted, believed that everyone could do that. And then, as an adult, I found that was an extremely extremely privileged perspective. Yes, if you have a US passport, you can go to lots of countries. Yes, if you are a native English speaker, then you can get a job teaching English, even if you don't really have any teacher qualifications- I certainly wasn't qualified enough when I started teaching English in China. (I am now a software engineer in China instead, which is way better for me.) But if you don't have those things? For a lot of people in this world, they can't just go galivanting around to wherever, solely because of what citizenship they hold. It shouldn't be that way. I wish everyone could live wherever they want. I support all immigrants.

There are always Americans saying "well they should get in line"- but for most people, there actually isn't even a line (ie, there isn't even a legal option available to them at all, to move to the US). John Oliver did a good segment on this- he is also an immigrant. But if you're married to a US citizen, then lucky you, there is a line you can get in, to get a green card and the right to live in the US without worrying you'll be kicked out because of the whims of whoever your visa is dependent on (most likely your job). And the "married to a US citizen" line moves along pretty efficiently and reliably. From talking to other women in my same situation (living in China, married to a Chinese man) it seems like the green card process takes maybe 1 year.

But for asexuals who aren't in a "marriage" relationship but have a partner or partners they want to live with, that's not an option. I don't necessarily have a solution for that (lol, well, actually my solution is "let in wayyyyyyy more immigrants"). Realistically it would be something about adding additional types of relationships that would be eligible for a green card. But still, who would define that? How can you set criteria to determine "you have an important enough connection to a US citizen that you should be allowed to stay in the country"? That is very tricky, maybe even impossible. I'm not sure if it can really be changed. But the way it works now puts a lot of asexuals at a disadvantage.

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Related:

US Immigration and the Definition of Marriage 

On Immigration and Double Standards

Paperwork for My Immigrant Baby

Saturday, March 19, 2022

I'm Still in Lockdown

Covid-testing in Shanghai. Image source.

Posts about the covid outbreak in Shanghai, China:

On the Current Covid Outbreak in Shanghai (March 12)

I'm in Lockdown (March 16)

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Yay another update.

So here's a basic timeline about how this covid outbreak in Shanghai (which began around March 1) is affecting us:

Thursday, March 10: I start working from home

Friday, March 11: Shanghai announces that all schools will be closed starting March 12, and this includes my son's daycare

Monday, March 14: My husband and I work from home, while our son is also at home, running around, making a mess, and constantly asking for things.

Wednesday, March 16: In the morning, we discover that our apartment complex has been put in a 48-hour lockdown. (Not because of any known covid cases in here, but because this whole area is a "key region" and they are doing mass testing.) We all get covid-tested.

Thursday, March 17: We get the results from Wednesday's covid test- the 3 of us are all negative. As far as I know, everyone in our apartment complex tested negative on Wednesday. Anyway, we are all required to get tested again on Thursday, because that's how the 48-hour lockdown works- they want to test everyone twice during the 48 hours.

Friday, March 18: In the morning, I go to the main gate of the complex to see if it's open, because our lockdown is supposed to be over. The nice volunteers there tell me that they haven't received any notification yet, and so they can't end the lockdown yet. 

Friday afternoon, someone comes knocking on all the doors to get everyone in the building into a WeChat group (WeChat is the social media app that everyone has in China) so that they can give us updates. They also said that our lockdown will continue and that we are all required to get tested again on Saturday and again on Sunday.

Also, our apartment management people have organized a vegetable delivery for us- they are offering bags with a whole bunch of fresh vegetables for 30 kuai (about 5 USD). That's nice. ^_^

Saturday, March 19 (today): In the morning, there's a post in the WeChat group to tell us it's time to get covid-tested. They are grouping people together by what building you live in, for the testing. So the 3 of us go and stand in line and do the covid test. (The testing station has been set up at the main gate of our complex.)

Saturday afternoon, our vegetables arrive. It's a lot of vegetables.

I keep checking on the "Health Cloud" app to see if our covid test results from Thursday are there. Finally, Saturday afternoon, the results are there. Negative. (Not that it makes any difference- we are still being mass-tested. And don't worry, obviously when they do mass testing, it's free. If you aren't required to get tested but you want to do it anyway, then you pay- I think it's about 40 kuai. But if it's required, then it's free.)

(I mean, lol, it makes a difference in the sense that, if you test positive, then you get taken to the hospital or quarantine hotel, obviously. But I don't really expect anyone in our apartment complex is covid-positive.)

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About groceries:

Oof, this is a problem. Normally I order groceries using the Hema app (Chinese name is 盒马, sometimes I see it called "Fresh Hippo" in English). But Hema has been unavailable since ... Thursday? I can put stuff in my cart but I can't actually place an order- I don't know if that's because it's closed or because everyone else already booked all the delivery times. I do know that it was closed for part of the day on Wednesday, because their customer service called me and said the employees were all getting covid-tested (probably caught up in the same lockdowns that we are)- but then, hours later, they did deliver my order. (Hooray!)

So, can't get anything on Hema right now. I have been checking it every few hours to see if it lets me place an order. Meanwhile, I am trying a bunch of other grocery apps- Meituan Maicai (美团买菜), Jingdong (京东), Tianmao Market (天猫超市), grocery stores like Carrefour and Lianhua that use the Meituan delivery platform... all of them are closed, or don't have any delivery times available, or don't deliver to this address (probably because there are suddenly restrictions on how far you can go to deliver food, during a covid outbreak), or the delivery fee is very high. I did end up placing an order on one of them- it will come 3-4 days from now... 

We are fine- we do have a lot of food in our home already. But this must be a huge problem for people who are less organized than me, for old people who don't know how to use apps very well, and for international people who can't read Chinese/ prefer to eat more "western" kinds of food and therefore have less flexibility about what grocery stores they can buy from.

In the group chat, they've been asking for volunteers- I bet the volunteers will be tasked with helping old people get their grocery deliveries, and things like that.

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About lockdowns going badly:

Well, remember my friend Casey that I talked about last week? As I wrote last week, they are a teacher, and their school was locked down and all the students and staff had to spend the night there. The next day, they were all allowed to go home, but need to do a "7+7", which means 7 days of quarantine + 7 days of health observation (not sure how exactly to translate it to English). The "health observation" part means you can go out to run your errands or whatever, but not to socialize with friends. (Doesn't really seem to be enforced, though- like, who would know?)

Apparently it's been a mess of unclear communication at Casey's school. HR hasn't really given them clear guidelines on what they're supposed to do. (Or even what "7+7" means.) They're all supposed to go home and notify their apartment management, who will be in charge of their quarantines. 

Apparently each apartment complex is coming up with their own interpretation of what "7+7" means. Casey was told that they can just stay in their room and their bathroom, and their roommates can use the other bathroom in the apartment, so the roommates don't have to quarantine or anything. And Casey followed those rules and stayed in their room, but if they hadn't, who would have known? It's not like anyone from the apartment management was there to check if Casey's door stayed closed and they didn't interact with their roommates. And when Casey was required to go get covid-tested during the 7 days of quarantine, the apartment management told Casey what covid-testing location to go to- as in, they had to leave their apartment and go out into society and find this location to get tested, and the apartment management people are fine with that.

On the other hand, some of the other teachers from Casey's school ended up with sensors on their doors- you know, with rules about "you can only open the door 3 times per day" and all that. Or they were told they had to stay in their home and weren't allowed to leave, and somebody was supposed to come and covid-test them, but nobody came. Or they went home and quarantined for several days before they found out that their apartment management hadn't even been notified about the quarantine, and therefore those days didn't "count", and the "7+7" starts when the management is notified.

I was discussing this in a WeChat group with Casey and some other friends- and yeah, some of my friends know people in much worse lockdown situations. Like someone stuck in a lockdown, 5 people in one studio apartment (4 men and 1 woman)- I assume it's because they don't all live there but they were visiting and then the lockdown suddenly happened and they weren't allowed to leave. Somebody even heard of somebody in Shanghai (okay, we have no way of verifying this story), where the security guards put a padlock and chains on this person's apartment door. On hearing this, one of my friends said "That's illegal! He needs to report that to the police!" and yeah, she's right. The Shanghai government very much does not want people being locked in with literal chains- but local security guards are the ones who actually have to take the guidelines from the government and implement them in reality, and some of these security guards are doing things like that.

Yeah... With huge lockdowns like this, you inevitably have stuff like that happening. It's not okay. (And the government in Xi'an was very much criticized for the way they handled the lockdowns a few months ago. Rightly criticized.) I see things that my apartment complex is doing well- like having lots of these red-vested volunteers around to tell us what's going on, coming door-to-door to check who is living in each apartment, making sure everyone is informed about when the covid tests are, setting up vegetable deliveries, etc. And at the same time, it's easy to see a lot of ways that a lockdown can go really badly, when you give random security guards that much power over people's lives. A lot of potential for mismanagement and abuse.

I realize that I am hesitant to say anything bad about China's handling of the pandemic, because I worry that the alternative is just doing what the US did and letting hundreds of thousands of people die. This is a fallacy- I shouldn't think that way. We can say that zero-covid is the right strategy, and also be realistic about the risks that come with it, and we should definitely criticize the people/governments who are doing a bad job. Definitely criticize them when their mismanagement means that people aren't able to get their basic needs met while in lockdown.

Western media reports these things like "here are some examples of China doing a bad job of making sure people's basic needs get met while in lockdown, THEREFORE zero-covid is bad, everyone hates it, China's lockdowns are so HARSH, so STRICT, China is being ridiculous and needs to stop this 'zero-covid' stuff, come on, all the other countries in the world have decided it's FINE to just let everyone have covid, when is China gonna get with the program and stop their oddball 'zero-covid' silliness?"

Anywayyyyyy. For me, things are fine here in Shanghai in lockdown. The impression I get is that overall, Shanghai is doing a good job, but does NOT have the outbreak under control yet. Every day they report how many covid cases have been discovered, and those numbers aren't going down yet. I expect this outbreak to last until maybe early- or mid-April. (Lol maybe I shouldn't make predictions; I could be completely wrong.)

I will post more updates as they happen ^_^

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A few news articles:

China reports first COVID-19 deaths in more than a year (March 19) This is from AP, and I'm surprised to see that it doesn't have that anti-China bias I'm used to seeing in western media articles about covid. (Good job!) Also, wow I had no idea that China has reported 0 deaths from covid since January 2021. (I am asking myself if I even can believe that... Yeah I know it must be a super-low number, but could it really be literally 0?) Anyway, this is a good article.

How Omicron Is Challenging China’s Grip on COVID-19 (March 18) From Sixth Tone, a Chinese news source. It's about recent changes in China's strategy, and hope that it means China will be able to relax a bit and be with the rest of the world again. That's encouraging, but also I am skeptical... there have been MANY MANY articles in the last 2 years about "so-and-so, an expert in infectious disease/ the Chinese tourism industry/ whatever, says that China is totally going to open the border in the next 6 months." (I mean, technically the border isn't closed; people enter China every day, it's just really hard.) And yet I am still stuck here and can't see my family.

How Four Chinese Cities Are Responding as Case Counts Rise (March 17) Also from Sixth Tone. Very informative graphs! (But the graph for Shenzhen is sideways, uh, what on earth?)

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Follow-up post: I'm in Lockdown Again

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

I'm in Lockdown

 

Testers fully covered in PPE, doing covid tests in Shanghai. Image source.

Post from last Saturday (March 12), about Shanghai's covid outbreak that began on March 1: On the Current Covid Outbreak in Shanghai 

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All right, so. Updates since then:

On Monday morning (March 14) I contacted our ayi to ask her if she would be able to come to our home or if she was locked down. (In China, it's common for people in our economic class to hire an "ayi" which means a maid or nanny. We used to have a full-time ayi to take care of our son, but since he started going to daycare we changed to a part-time ayi who cleans and makes dinner.)

Ayi says, her apartment complex is locked down. For 14 days. So. OMG we have to clean our own home and cook our own food. And my son's daycare is closed (last Friday afternoon, the city of Shanghai announced that all schools will be closed because of the covid outbreak, and this includes Square Root's daycare). So Hendrix and I are trying to work from home while also taking care of Square Root and also cooking and doing housework.

Oh, yeah, because about the food deliveries: Monday I ordered some groceries, and they came 3 hours late. As in, I ordered around 8 am, it said it would arrive at 11:45, and then it arrived at 2:45. On Tuesday, the groceries arrived 2 and a half hours late. Good thing we have a lot of random extra food like eggs and frozen hash browns and whatever- we were able to cobble together a dinner after giving up on the grocery delivery. Anyway, yes the groceries did finally come and now we have plenty of food.

Also, the city of Shanghai posted on their WeChat on Tuesday to say, no, we are not shutting down the entire city. And yes, I do believe they will have this under control and it won't be necessary to shut down the entire city.

So. This morning (Wednesday, March 16). So I get up in the morning and look out the window, to see if people are going in and out the back door of our apartment complex. You know, to check if we are locked down or not. I saw a few people go to the back door, then turn around and walk away. Ohh, not a good sign. So I went outside to take the trash out, and after I had put the trash in the trash bins, I walked around to investigate what is happening.

Yes, indeed, the back door of the apartment complex has a lock on it.

So I go to the other door- the main gate of the apartment complex. I see a bunch of people standing around- random residents wearing masks, helpful volunteers wearing red vests, and several people wearing the whole white head-to-toe PPE-and-face-shield get-up, sitting at a table with an array of test tubes. 

So yeah.

I talked to some of the red-vest people. Their vests have the words 志愿者, which means "volunteer." I think some of them are Communist Party members- because they're required to do this kind of volunteer stuff; it's not like political parties in the US where anyone can join just by checking a box. No, being a Communist Party member actually has some requirements and a bit of prestige associated with it. ANYWAY, probably not all the volunteers were Party members; I don't know. But yeah so I talked to these volunteers to ask what was going on.

They said our apartment complex is locked down, for 2 days, starting this morning at 6 am. They said everyone needs to get covid-tested. They said if you need to go to work, there is a form you can fill out to get out of lockdown. (And yes, I saw a bunch of people this morning filling out the form and therefore being allowed to leave.)

They also had an official notice paper about it. I took a picture of that. It says we all have to get tested twice- once today and once tomorrow.

See, what's happening is some "key areas" of the city are having all the apartment complexes do 48-hour lockdowns. Not because anyone in our apartment complex was found to have covid, but just because they are doing mass testing for this whole area. No, if someone was actually found to have covid, then it would be a 14-day lockdown (and I strongly suspect this is what happened in Ayi's apartment complex).

So, I try to get on the app for covid-testing ("Health Cloud"); the way it works is you have to register in the app, then you get a QR code, and when you go to get tested, they scan your QR code. But I couldn't get it to work. Kept getting "request timeout" errors. Because yeah, in the morning when everyone is finding out they're in lockdown, they are all trying to get on the "Health Cloud" app at the same time.

So I wasn't able to do a covid test right then. Decided to come back later when the app was working.

(Oh yeah also, about this app, it's a bit of a pain for non-Chinese citizens. Ha, a lot of apps which require you to verify your identity are a pain for non-Chinese citizens. It's like, oh, this app has my old passport number saved instead of my current passport number- is it possible to change that? No? I just have to create a new user which is actually literally myself but with the correct passport number? Also, do they want my name in all caps? Should I put a space between my first and middle names? If you guess wrong, it will tell you it can't verify your id and you just gotta guess again. Like how many permutations of your name can you imagine? Hopefully one of them is the one that this computer system has in mind! Best of luck!)

Anywayyyy so I go home. My husband and I try to work from home while Square Root watches "Magic School Bus" and/or puts every single toy he owns on our living room floor. Talking to my work colleagues, I find that several of them are also suddenly in lockdown today. 

After lunch, we got "Health Cloud" to work, I took screenshots of the QR codes in case the app went down again, and we went out to get covid-tested.

So, I have been using the term "covid test" on my blog, but to be more specific, these are nucleic-acid tests. (核酸 in Chinese.) They were just doing it in the throat, not the nose, probably because nobody likes getting a long stick up their nose, and we are expecting the results to all be negative anyway, so no need to do the more intense nose covid test.

Also, here's a bit of an interesting fact: the testers were putting several people's throat swabs into the same test tube. This is because they are expecting them to all be negative, and they're testing tens of thousands of people every day. They can get all this mass testing done much faster if they put them together instead of one test tube per person. (And then if a tube turns out to be positive, then they just need to test those specific people individually.)

Anywayyyy so that's the situation. We got covid-tested- me, my husband, and my little toddler son. We'll have to do it again tomorrow. For us, it's not a problem being in lockdown, because we weren't going anywhere anyway.

Okay that's all for now, readers ~ I will give you more updates as they happen.

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A few other little notes:

In December 2021 I wrote a post called I Don't Know Anyone in China Who Has Had Covid. I guess I have a bit of an update: It is still true that I don't personally know anyone in China who has had covid, BUT just yesterday I saw someone in one of the WeChat groups (I am in a bunch of groups with hundreds of members) who has covid and is currently in one of the designated hospitals. They said they feel bad for the children there who are alone- because all the patients there are isolated, no one is allowed to visit, even children aren't allowed to see their parents. Even infants.

That's terrible. Overall I trust China's anti-covid strategy, but some of these details are not good.

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Some articles from Sixth Tone about the covid outbreak in Shanghai:

China Updates Quarantine Rules, Treatments for COVID-19 Patients (March 16) Seems like a lot of international people are taking this as a really positive sign, like the first step toward China opening up ... I don't know. Lots of people have said lots of things over the past 2 years about how China is totally going to open up soon. I'll believe it when I see it.

One Hundred Thousand Students Likely Locked Down in Shanghai (March 16)

COVID-19 Cases at a Shanghai Hospital Lead to Chaos, Lockdown (March 15) Oh this is not good.

Shanghai Slows Down to Curb COVID-19 Spread (March 14)

China Sees Over 1,000 COVID-19 Cases for First Time Since 2020 (March 11)

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Follow-up post: I'm Still in Lockdown

Monday, March 14, 2022

Top 13 Posts of 2021

A white woman using a laptop. I was going to say "you readers can imagine this is how I look when I'm blogging," but then I was like, NO WAY would I have white furniture like that at the table where I eat. (Especially with a toddler.) Then my husband said, "When you are blogging, you don't look that relaxed." Image source.

Heyyyy it is March (happy Pi Day!), so obviously time for the roundup of my most popular blog posts from 2021, right?

Here are the top 5 with the most page views:

1. Thank you, Libby Anne. In 2021, Libby Anne (the blogger from "Love, Joy, Feminism") announced she would be retiring from blogging. She was one of my favorite bloggers, so I posted a roundup of her best posts.

2. How Pregnancy and Childbirth Changed My Asexuality (or, actually, A Post About Vaginismus). This is my big vaginismus post- everything I've said about my asexuality since then has linked back to this. (Probably the most important post on my blog in 2021.)

3. Not Sure I Want My Kid Reading the Bible. "There is a lot of good stuff in the bible. There are a lot of very good and beautiful truths about God. There are a lot of stories that are great for kids to read. BUT. Most of the bible is not that. So yes, I want to show my child the good parts, but I don't want to misrepresent the bible and have him think that the bible is all about exciting stories, and teaching morality and godliness, and learning good things about God. No, the bible is very much about foreskins, and genocide, and God sending war and disasters as punishment, and laws that had zero understanding of human rights."

4. My Little Niche in the Asexual Community. "This is the little niche I am in, in the asexual community- I choose to be in a 'normative' relationship structure- married, monogamous, opposite-gender partner, expected to have sex. I am interested in how to navigate that as an asexual, and I want to reach out to people (especially women) who are in the same situation. "

5. What If I Dated In High School. About the bizarre and wrong ideas I had about dating when I was in high school, and my current wonderings about the extent to which it's even possible for a teenager to not have bizarrely wrong ideas about dating.

And a few other posts I loved, even though they weren't in the top 5 for page views: 

1. I Don't Know Anyone in China Who Has Had Covid. Yep, this is still true.

2. Strange Fire and 3. Everyone Else's Nadab and Abihu Fanfics. Y'all, I am TIRED of Christians all making up their own fanfics about how Nadab and Abihu were definitely bad people, bad enough that they deserved to be killed in a fire sent by God. Just because the bible says they deserved it, you believed that? Geez. So I wrote my own fanfic. 

4. Sinopharm vaccine, 1st dose. I got the Chinese covid-19 vaccine.

5. US Immigration and the Definition of Marriage. Working on my husband's green card application. "I found it surprising, to be honest, because I always assumed that if you have a marriage license, then you're married, and that's that- but no, for the US immigration system, that's not enough."

6. Love Wins (an Ezra fanfic) and 7. This "Do Not Intermarry With Them" Stuff Hits Different Now. Let it be known that the biblical prophet Ezra was a jerk. I wrote a love story about a couple who stayed together despite all the biblical laws that tried to keep them apart. (And I realized that I am in exactly the kind of inter-racial, inter-national, inter-religious marriage that Ezra would have wanted to break up.)

8. I'm Still Asexual. Yep, I'm still asexual. A LOT of things have changed, but I am still asexual.

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Also, CAN YOU BELIEVE I started this blog in 2012? It's been 10 years. And I have not run out of opinions to blog about.

Thank you to all my readers, you are great! Please go ahead and leave a comment about what kinds of posts you like and want to see more of. <3

And I have a Patreon! https://www.patreon.com/perfectnumber Thank you to everyone who supports me on Patreon. You are great!

Saturday, March 12, 2022

On the Current Covid Outbreak in Shanghai

A covid-testing site in Shanghai, China. Image source.

I live in Shanghai, China. There is a covid-19 outbreak here- the worst one that Shanghai has ever had. So I want to blog about it and tell you all what it's like.

First of all, here are a few English-language news articles about it, though as I've said before, I am giving all the side-eye to western media reporting on China's handling of the pandemic:

China’s zero-Covid policy tested as Shanghai’s worst outbreak traced to quarantine hotel 

China Shuts Shanghai Schools, Adds Hospitals on Covid Return 

And Sixth Tone, a Chinese news source which doesn't have the "clutch my pearls over how strict China's lockdowns are" attitude that western news has:

China Sees Over 1,000 COVID-19 Cases for First Time Since 2020

Okay so let me tell you how it is here.

To set the scene: Here in Shanghai, we are used to having 0 covid cases. Every single day, the city of Shanghai publishes on their WeChat account (Chinese social media app) the stats on how many local covid cases were found in Shanghai, and how many imported. The number for "local" is 0, the overwhelming majority of the time. If it's not 0, if it's, say, 1, then people sit up and take notice because OH NOOOO we are having an OUTBREAK. (And the number for "imported" is typically somewhere around 30 per day. These are people who traveled in from abroad to enter mainland China- and everyone who enters China is tested for covid and required to spend 14-21 days in quarantine. So the "imported" cases don't affect the rest of Shanghai, because international travelers are not allowed to wander around in society until after their quarantine is done.)

So, yeah, occasionally we have an "outbreak" which is, say, 1 case. Maybe, say, 5 or 10 at the most. The places where those infected people visited will all be temporarily closed to be disinfected, their close contacts will all get tested (and maybe also quarantined, depending on how close of a contact they are), and the apartment complexes where they live will be marked as "medium-risk" and everyone living there has to get tested and stay home in quarantine for 14 days. And for the rest of us in Shanghai, well we just continue to go about our lives like normal, and then 14 days later, hooray, everywhere is "low-risk" and that's the end of that outbreak.

That's basically what it's been like in Shanghai throughout the whole pandemic. Typically 0 local cases, and then every month or so there will be like, an outbreak of a few local cases, which immediately get quarantined, and life is pretty normal. Unless you happen to get caught in the quarantine and then you're stuck there for 14 days.

This time is different.

The current outbreak started on March 1 (that's what the Sixth Tone article says, but honestly I am not sure on the exact date because there was also 1 local asymptomatic covid case reported in Shanghai on February 27, and 3 local asymptomatic on February 28- anyway, sometime around then). I guess in the first few days, people didn't pay much attention to it- just have a vague awareness that somewhere in the city there's a "medium-risk" area, and check how close it is to where you live, but other than that, life continued as normal.

Then on Sunday, March 6, I heard from one friend, let's call her Jessica, that everyone at her job was required to go to the office that day and quarantine there for 48 hours. Sleeping there and all that. They weren't told the exact reason why- like what specific level of "close contact" are we talking, was it like "someone at the office is a close contact of a positive case" or "someone at the office is a contact of a contact of a positive case" or "someone in the office lives in the same apartment complex as a positive case"??? They weren't told details, just told that they all had to come in and quarantine at their job for 48 hours.

Jessica has a small baby, and she found out that pregnant and breastfeeding women aren't required to do the office quarantine- she was allowed to quarantine at home, fortunately. The weird thing was, nobody gave specific directions to her on what exactly she needed to do- like, would someone come to her home and covid-test her? Does it mean her whole family also has to stay at home and quarantine too? I think it was maybe 24 hours later when she heard from an official source about what she needed to do, and the exact time her quarantine would end. (Yes, it was 48 hours.) She actually went out herself to a testing location to do the covid test on March 7 (so yes, during the 48 hours)- it wasn't the pandemic workers coming to her home to test. We assume the authorities didn't judge her to be at risk of actually having covid, so that's why they didn't give her much oversight about it.

Also on Sunday, March 6, I was out with friends at an event where about 90% of people weren't wearing masks. I was not wearing a mask either. One of my friends, let's call her Wendy, got a text message while she was there with us; it said her entire apartment complex was being covid-tested, and she should go home and do the covid test. We still didn't put on masks or anything after she told us, and she did stay till the end of the event. (Hmm, maybe people in Shanghai are way too casual about masks since we're used to having 0 covid cases...)

I texted Wendy on WeChat the next day to ask what happened, and she said after they all got tested, they were allowed to leave. They were not in lockdown. (She thought maybe they were just testing everyone in that area because one of the confirmed cases was about 2 km from where she lives.) But she heard some nearby apartment complexes were locked down that day (March 7), so some people were saying it's better to not go out anyway, just in case your apartment complex ends up getting locked down too.

All right, so, a few days pass, and here are the stats for local cases in Shanghai:

Graph showing "confirmed" (ie symptomatic) and "asymptomatic" cases in Shanghai, March 1-10, 2022. Image source.

(About 90% are asymptomatic, because most people are vaccinated. But even if you don't have symptoms, it is still possible to infect other people. That's the problem...)

I remember thinking, maybe on Tuesday or Wednesday (March 8 or 9), "umm, these numbers are way way bigger than normal, but people aren't really reacting to it, this could be a problem." Some people at my job had decided to work from home because of it, but the rest of us were just there at the office, not wearing masks.

On Wednesday (March 9), HR sent an email that said we should all try to work from home if possible. My manager called our department into a meeting (maybe about 10 people), and, uh, nobody wore masks at this meeting- to tell us all that we should discuss with our project managers about what needs to be coordinated in order for us all to work from home.

(I just mention the lack of masks several times in this post to show kind of what the current feeling is in Shanghai about masks. I mean, everyone is tired of masks. Masks are required on the subway, and that's the place where it's really really enforced. Also when I take a taxi or when I'm in a public place like a mall, I wear a mask- but maybe 25% of people don't. Hanging out in public with a group of friends, I don't. And at work I don't.)

So Thursday (March 10) I worked from home. 

And, also, Thursday was the day that everything changed.

On Thursday, I heard from Jessica that her apartment complex was locked down. The security guards didn't give any information on how long it would be, but Jessica assumed it would probably be a whole 14 days. They're still able to get food deliveries- but have to walk all the way out to the complex gate to get them.

Also on Thursday, I heard from a friend who works as a teacher, let's call them Casey, that they were stuck at school, not allowed to leave, and not given any information on how long it would be. All the students and staff were required to stay there. After a few hours, they found out that they would have to stay the whole night.

Also on Thursday, I saw a lot of posts on WeChat from pet boarding companies and vets about what to do with your pets if you are quarantined. People are concerned about this, because we have heard of a few stories from other Chinese cities where a pet was killed by the quarantine workers. I feel like that wouldn't happen in Shanghai, but people are worried. Basically the advice I saw posted was that if you're quarantined at home, your pet will just be at home with you, which is fine, and you can go outside to walk your dog. And if you're quarantined at some centralized place instead, call one of the pet boarding services and have them come pick up your pets and keep them for you. Like, hopefully there won't be any issue with this, but good to have a plan in place.

And suddenly lots of events being cancelled.

Thursday night, I hear from Wendy again- her apartment complex is in lockdown for 48 hours.

A common theme on WeChat on Thursday night is that people aren't being given information about what is going on. Questions like: If we're in lockdown, how do we get food? If we're stuck at school, where are we supposed to sleep? How long do we have to stay here? Seems like the pandemic control authorities weren't as organized as they should be.

Thursday is when we realized, it's never been this bad in Shanghai before. It's never been like this. We've never had lockdowns like this.

Stats for Thursday, March 10: 11 confirmed cases, 64 asymptomatic cases.

Friday morning, I wake up and check all my WeChat groups. There are photos of students who had to sleep at their schools. All wearing masks and trying to sleep at their desks. Poor kids.

On Friday, my husband and I worked from home, and we sent our son to daycare like normal. There weren't any lockdowns around the area where we live, and the kids at the daycare mostly live within walking distance, so we figured that was fine.

All throughout the day, there are discussions on WeChat about who's in a lockdown and who's required to get tested and so on and so on. Lots of parents saying "the school sent us a notification that all the students are required to get tested."

Friday afternoon, the city of Shanghai posts on their WeChat to say they did some genetic analysis and found the source of the current outbreak: it's one of the quarantine hotels that is used to quarantine people when they enter China. Apparently they didn't follow all the isolation and cleaning protocols, and there was a leak.

Later on Friday afternoon, the city of Shanghai posts an announcement that all schools will be closed, starting on March 12. And that also includes our son's daycare.

I talked with Casey on Friday night- they said they were allowed to leave, but would have to do 12 days of "home observation" which means you stay at home but you're at least allowed to go downstairs to get your food deliveries or whatever, so it's not a real quarantine. But they were worried that if they went home, their 2 roommates would also be required to stay at home. They wondered about going to a hotel instead- they weren't really given clear guidelines on where they would or wouldn't be allowed to go. Eventually the roommates said "just come home anyway." The management of their apartment complex was notified, and the management then decided that since their apartment had 2 bathrooms, Casey can just stay in their bedroom and use the one bathroom, and the roommates can use the other one, so then the roommates are allowed to go wherever and don't have any quarantine restrictions.

Friday night, the "Health Cloud" app that people use to input their data for covid tests crashed. Some people said that they weren't able to get tested because of that. Some people said that the quarantine workers started writing people's information down on paper so they could get tested anyway.

Friday night, I see an article on WeChat that says Shanghai officials have announced that the rumors about the whole city being locked down are NOT TRUE. Uhhh... I personally hadn't heard that rumor, but uh okay, good.

Hearing more anecdotes about things being not as organized as they should be- I heard about a building that was already locked down for 24 or 48 hours, but nobody had even come to covid-test the residents of the building yet.

Stats for Friday, March 11: 5 confirmed cases, 78 asymptomatic.

Saturday morning, I saw a post in a WeChat group about how the line at one of the popular covid-testing sites is going all the way down the block. The covid-testing site's WeChat said the wait time on Friday had been about 2 hours.

Also, I hear from Wendy that their 48-hour quarantine has been extended to 72 hours because they weren't able to get tested last night when the app crashed.

And another friend, Bob, said he went to get his food delivery at lunchtime today (Saturday) and found the gate of his apartment complex was barricaded and they are locked down. (But good news is, they still get food deliveries just fine.) No information on how long their lockdown will be.

Sooooo that's the current status. I personally am not affected that much- just have to work from home, and my son won't be able to go to daycare the next few days, but we aren't locked down. We can still go out. We could even probably find some restaurants within walking distance that are still open for indoor dining. (We aren't going to, though, we're going to stay home.) Food deliveries are taking longer than normal, though.

So, to be clear: I'm not in lockdown, and I'm not required to get covid-tested.

I do have concerns about all the problems with people not being given information on what's happening. It's because the pandemic control people are trying to move so fast to stay ahead of this, that the security guards and covid-testers who are actually doing the work on the ground haven't been given the information either. Come on, be more organized than this. 

And the backlog of covid tests, the delays in getting results, the "Health Cloud" app crashing, yeah the pandemic control system seems a little overwhelmed right now, and that could have been done better. 

Also it is BEYOND ME why there isn't some kind of official plan about how to care for pets when the owners are quarantined. Like, give people some reassurance that the powers-that-be recognize that it's wrong to kill someone's pet. Like what on earth.

Actually, I'm kind of surprised, because I've always thought the city of Shanghai was doing a really good job controlling the pandemic. Seemed really organized. For 2 years we've had quarantine hotels here, receiving covid-positive international travelers every single day, and things have been fine. I think overall, Shanghai has been doing a good job, but somehow this outbreak got big faster than they expected.

If you've read my blog, you know I'm pretty positive about China's overall handling of the pandemic, because it works and it has prevented hundreds of thousands of deaths. To some extent I feel like "I shouldn't criticize anything, because the alternative is to do what the US did, where hundreds of thousands of people died." But that's ridiculous. Let's not compare with the US, let's have a higher standard than that.

Overall, I am cautiously optimistic that we've already passed the worst part of this outbreak, and things are under control now. Maybe the lockdowns that exist now have managed to include 100% of the people in Shanghai who have covid. Then we just wait the 2 weeks and it peters out.

Anyway, that's our situation here in Shanghai. I plan to post another update in the next few days when we see how things go.

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Follow-up post: I'm in Lockdown

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Related: 

Wow, the Anti-China Bias in Western News Media

Oh, and it is STILL true that I Don't Know Anyone in China Who Has Had Covid

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