Unlike most world news events, the COVID-19 coronavirus has already been affecting the skateboarding world. But in between wondering whether the Olympics will be postponed and whether we’ll even have to go to work anymore, no one’s really talked to any skateboarders living in quarantined areas.
Through a friend, we were able to connect with a young woman named Coretta living in China who’s been under quarantine since January. She’s a skateboarder and usually works teaching kids how to skate at an academy in China, but for the past several weeks she hasn’t been able to skate or do much else.
We chatted with Coretta to get a firsthand account of what things are like under a coronavirus quarantine. Her situation obviously doesn’t speak for everyone everywhere, but if your newsfeed and local gossip circles got you feeling overly anxious, hopefully this can offer a little perspective to keep you grounded as you continue scrubbing your hands with bleach.
How long have you lived in China and what you do for work?
I am in Ningbo, it is a second-tier city about two hours away from Shanghai. I have lived here for close to a year and a half now working as a skate coach at the Skateboard Supercross Academy. The SBSX skatepark is on the campus of the Zhicheng school where we offer skateboard physical education classes to the students as well as weekend lessons for anyone who wants to ride outside the school.
How is the quarantine affecting you on a daily basis?
Since returning to China from vacation at the end of January, I have seen many stages of the quarantine.
Upon my initial return, I was freely able to leave my community grounds. In the days following, more restrictions were put in place, shops remained closed and supermarkets closed earlier than usual. We were restricted at one point to exiting our communities for errands such as grocery shopping to once every two days and that was only for one person per household. At the entrance of any public space or community your temperature is taken and shown to you. I think you can’t have a temperature of more than 37.3°C.
Did you know that at the sight of a thermometer, it is not unusual for one’s temperature to rise? I had to learn that. Also, you might scare some guards who are taking your temperature because your car’s heater was on blast getting you a little too warm.
Visitors in most communities are not permitted and the usual hangout spots are all closed for the time being. As for cooking, it is the freest time I have had to get creative in the kitchen.
“At the entrance of any public space…your temperature is taken and shown to you.”
What kind of stuff have you been cooking? Any other things you’ve been catching up on since the quarantine?
Lucky for me a friend is staying with me. I have been a sous chef to his delicious Nigerian meals like okra soup, tomato stew, and Indomie (a special twist on fried noodles). My family is from Liberia so it’s been good catching up on all the West African meals I have missed being here in China.
I renewed my Netflix account just as the quarantine started. Stayed up to date on One Piece episodes, got my friend hooked on Breaking Bad and binge-watched all five seasons in four days. Saw a trailer for A Quiet Place II so I watched it a second time. It was just as good the second time. Still got some questions as to why the father had to sacrifice himself but still a good watch. Saw Coming to America again and despite that film being made in 1988 it still is a great watch.
How is the quarantine being enforced?
The quarantine is being enforced by volunteers, guards, and police officers who relay messaging. Since my work is under the department of education, regulations are explained via a coworker. We are asked to report any occupants in our home, our movements, and health daily. China worked fast when it came to getting a health function on their WeChat where you can check the cases of infection, successful treatment, and deaths locally and nationally. My cable has been down since prior to this event so most of the information I have received has been a collection of notices from officials, government employers, WeChat community group chats, and American news reports.
“I don’t know what a return to normal will be like or when it will happen.”
How are you feeling about the quarantine and the hazards of the virus?
I see the quarantine as necessary, especially in a country with as big a population as China. I would not feel safe with things going on as normal, but in all honesty the seriousness of the illness has not been seen by myself personally. The quarantine has been difficult mentally and financially, but I remember that I must be thankful for my health.
Things are seeming to ease up in my area. I am not freely able to leave my community but there is still nowhere to go but the local supermarket as everything is still closed and there has been no word as to when we can return to work. Some fast food places and milk tea shops have opened, all with signs out front stating “No mask, no service.”
Honestly, I don’t know what a return to normal will be like or when it will happen, especially with the other cases that are appearing in other areas of the world.
You mentioned the quarantine has been financially difficult. Could you say a little more about that?
I have heard some extreme cases of people being laid off or only being offered a portion of their salaries because companies are not doing so well in this climate. The government has shared information about how employers should pay their employees, but the conditions that are stated in the government document are not so applicable to all situations, so ultimately it is up to the employer. My financial fears have been calmed after receiving my salary recently.
What are the biggest misconceptions people have about the virus or anything else going on in China right now?
I know my family and friends back in the U.S. all wanted me back home for fear of me contracting the illness. The way the American media makes it look, I would worry the same. It reminds me of the S.A.R.S. outbreak with people in hazmat suits and medical tents everywhere. That is around, but you must go out of your way to find it. For the most part, I’m sitting at home trying to figure out ways to fill my time and hoping to hear some news that things would be returning to normal.
As for the quarantine, is it just that. Limited flights, travel, traffic, and everything is just not running as it normally would. Roads, markets, and areas that were once filled with life are now quiet, but things seem to be freeing up so I can only be hopeful that a return to normalcy is upon us.
Have you been able to skate at all since the quarantine went into effect?
I left my board at the SBSX park when I traveled to Malaysia for the Chinese New Year, and since returning I haven’t been able to visit the park or get my board. This is the longest I have been off my board. I tried driving to other areas only to be met with highway cops restricting my access to other cities and towns.
What does it feel like to wear a mask all day?
I only wear the mask when I exit my apartment. It is annoying to wear a mask. My nose starts to itch and run immediately after putting it on. It’s not comfortable and it hardly feels like it’s doing the job, but with the right attire I do feel like a pretty cool ninja.