Warning from China: A former Hays County resident checks in

A former Hays County resident now living 400 miles from Wuhan, China, the city where the COVID-19 virus was first detected, strongly advises everyone here to listen to medical professionals instead of politicians when it comes to preventing its spread.

T.D. Cox is principal at an international school in the Shandong Province of the People’s Republic of China. A “self-proclaimed son” of former Hays Free Press Publisher Bob Barton and his wife, Tutta, he is a graduate of Texas State University.

An email he wrote to Tutta Barton on Feb. 14 sounds as if it could have been written from Hays County today:

It’s a very dangerous and difficult situation here … all schools, businesses, restaurants and other things are closed down and have been for several weeks. It is like a ghost town when one goes outside (which can be dangerous because you could contract the virus).

He also spoke of schools opening by March 2. That had not yet happened on Friday when he spoke with the Hays Free Press.

“You gotta self-quarantine. Wash your hands, take care of each other. Stay well and listen to medical professionals and support them,” he said. “Right now, if we’re not careful, the U.S. will soon overtake Italy as the number one death coun-try.” The U.S. has already overtaken China in the number of total cases, a statistic that is particularly frightening given the difference in population in the two countries.

“If the space aliens came down and took one billion Chinese people away this country would still have more people than the United States,” he said. “I live in a town of six million and it’s considered a very small town.”

Cox said that though schools remain closed, his apartment complex has never been on lockdown and he has been free to come and go except for a 10-day period after someone in an adjacent building tested positive.

He has also been free to visit friends, though a colleague coming to visit him recently was briefly detained until authorities could determine he was a resident, not a tourist.

Recent numbers indicate few new cases of the virus in China, meaning authorities are now more concerned about foreigners bringing it in, Cox said.

When most people had returned to their hometowns for the Chinese New Year — right at the time the virus first hit — Cox had intended to rest and then travel to Thailand and Vietnam. Instead, he made a decision that, in hindsight, was an excellent call. “I didn’t go. I quarantined
myself,” for what turned out to be 10 or 11 weeks.

Unlike Hays County, Cox said his province was never under a curfew, and these days he is keeping busy with online lessons, hopeful that schools will reopen in April. Slowly, he said, hotels, restaurants and shops are opening now.

He warned that those things won’t happen here

“Be prepared for the long haul, it’s gonna take seven or eight weeks at least for this virus to see where it goes,” he said. “Don’t listen to President Trump, he’s going to kill you all, don’t listen to the Republican party, they’re going to kill you all. Listen to medical experts and the media.”

If we all don’t stick to protocol now and keep our distance from one another, Cox said he is not optimistic. “I’m a proud Texan and a proud American, but I don’t see a happy ending to this story.”

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