Kentucky native living in China describes return to normal following coronavirus outbreak

Updated: Apr. 15, 2020 at 11:46 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - As China begins to open up after months of a coronavirus lockdown, a Shelbyville native is living there teaching English.

Daniel Welker lives in the city of Luoyang, in China’s Henan Province. It’s about a six-hour drive from the initial epicenter of the virus in Wuhan.

Welker said he first heard the virus was spreading around the start of the year. Now, he said Luoyang hasn’t reported a case in a month.

He said lockdowns were one of the first major changes of life in China.

Following that, Welker added the government mandated that people wear masks, and guards, once used for security, doubled to make sure people stayed in their neighborhoods.

"The way China did it would not work in America because imagine the government of the most individualistic country in the world saying we are going to make you do this and you must comply," Welker said.

When it comes to normal life in lockdown, gradually one person from each home was allowed to go to stores, which were rationing goods like those in the U.S. might see now.

"So, that we didn't have hoarding," he said. "Anybody that was caught without a mask would be heavily criticized by their peers."

Welker said there was a rush to get supplies like cold and flu medicine and produce, but he never experienced a toilet paper shortage.

"Surprisingly, no," he said. "The big items to go were, at first, face masks."

Now, life is beginning to return to normal in Henan Province. The Shelby County native said some people are still wearing masks, but others are gradually going out without them.

Lockdowns in the city have been lifted.

“Lots of people, boom, went out,” Welker said. “The parks were packed that day. We wound up staying in because of the crowds.”

Welker said that right now, school is taught online or postponed, most stores are open, some restaurants offer in-person dining, but movie theaters remain closed.

He said his wife told him how many of those in China are viewing their country’s pandemic response.

“Since this pandemic began in China, it was the Chinese people’s duty to rally around each other and let their economy take a hit in order to combat this illness,” he said she told him.

Restarting the U.S. economy, cautiously, is also on his mind, as he thinks of family at home.

“It’s my country,” he said. “I hate seeing my country take an economic hit, but I also care about the lives of my countrymen. We’ve seen a lot of people come down sick; we’ve seen people die from this.”

Welker said the average Chinese citizen is concerned for others around the world right now.

He added that he’s heard reports of discriminatory practices of Chinese abroad and, now, foreigners in China as it relates to the coronavirus. Welker said he wants to send a message that such behavior by anyone is unacceptable.

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