covid among us

Inquiring minds want to know: what’s asymptomatic covid got do with anything anyway? More than you’d think, because during each day of mandatory covid testing chez SZ, one or two asymptomatic carriers have been discovered. In turn, everyone around them abruptly becoming “close contacts” of the disease and subject to lockdown. Not surprisingly, stories of absurd lockdowns circulate: A building was locked down when a plumber was fixing a toilet, so he’s spending fourteen days with the family that hired him. A mother organized a birthday party for her daughter and four friends, the building was locked down, and for the next fourteen days she was responsible for the care and feeding of five elementary schoolgirls. One man was finally able to leave his building, and while he was waiting to be tested, the neighborhood he was in was shut down and he couldn’t go home.

How many of these covid among us stories are true and how many urban myths it’s hard to say. But these stories share two features. First, they highlight the absurdity of the current policy. There is no way to take precautions because the carrier may be asymptomatic, may be neighbor, may be visiting a friend and yes probably looks just like you. Second, no one dies in these stories. They are generally told in the context of reports of another five or six or eighteen cases, but are not resolved with reports of death statistics. Instead, the point is to watch your back, but you can’t–HA! It’s almost like we’re living an incorporated version of Among Us, an online game I’ve never played, but where the point seems to be: do whatever you have to do not to get caught by an asymptomatic carrier imposter, including lurking in corners, not doing assigned tasks, and lying to co-workers.

During and post lockdown, Among Us players created and uploaded content that emphasizes the fun of broken trust and limited narrative. Indeed, as far as I can tell, the only game-related conversation seems to be “who can we vote off the spaceship?” (But again, I don’t play online games, just watch related videos, so my interpretation is based on fanfic rather than actually gaming experience.) Nevertheless, these videos pose existential questions about trust, hope and common purpose in times when relationships have been reduced to so-called essential tasks, which really aren’t because in terms of actual survival our most essential relationship might be with the food delivery guy. And yes, the popularity of the game has been attributed to allowing for realtime socializing during covid lockdowns, but I wanna go with the obvious symbolism of the dangers that lurk beneath the skins of people who don’t seem the type to sabotage a building, a neighborhood, or a city. But then again, if not them, then who? Could it be moi?

Anyway, while I wasn’t posting last week, the covid situation in Shenzhen hit a new level of weird. A wrap up: On Saturday, March 12 temporarily closed onsite dining (takeout and delivery service still available), leisure sites (theaters, card rooms, and malls), and training centers, including childcare. Today, Monday March 14, Shenzhen’s “work at home” policy began, with office workers working at home and essential workers continuing to do the physical work of supporting these at home workers and their families. The policy is in effect until Friday, March 18. The logic is that if everyone stays at home, no inessential businesses are open, and the transportation system shuts down, then Omicron will be defeated. Official media outlets are promoting “slow living 慢生活,” stores are completely sold out, and the “we are at war” rhetoric continues to inform discussion and (from a certain perspective) jokes. Meanwhile, Nixon is being mobilized to demonstrate that when the US goes to war, good things happen, while when Russia goes to war, not so much good follows.

Sigh. There are days when I hug my cats and think, madness is collective. And contagious. And plays like a video game. And then I realize that Olympic mascot, Bing Dundun 冰墩墩 (who looks like a cross between a naive panda and an Among Us character) has gotten even more popular as the face of many Shenzhen “I was tested today” stickers. His friend in red is Xue Rongrong 雪容融.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s