America’s COVID-19 recovery may not be similar to what is happening in China

Posted at 2:57 PM, Apr 02, 2020

In China, factories are operating, flights are resuming, and stores are reopening. It was the first country to shut down entire regions earlier this year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, although information wasn't available at first.

"None of us knew that the virus was even a thing until probably like the middle of January when we got a new foreign teacher from New Zealand who said 'Hey, have you guys heard about this virus? Crazy, huh?' And we just said, "Sorry excuse me what are you talking about?' and then it turned into a much bigger thing," Isabel Dahm, an American living in China, explained.

Businesses were closing, and citizens told to stay indoors. Each individual received a QR code that was scanned at buildings and apartment entrances to prove your health.

"We went right into quarantine," Isabel said. "You would go outside, and there would be nothing. You wouldn't see anyone. My friend and I called it apocalypse vibes."

Isabel is from Minnesota. Right now, she's teaching English in Jinhua, China -- a city in a neighboring province to Wuhan, China's COVID-19 ground zero. Three months later, China is now reporting fewer new cases each day. We talked to Isabel about how it looks to see the country start moving again.

"The economy was just sort of put on pause," she said. "Economically, China locked it down right away. Everyone is getting paid in February regardless." She told the consumers, and small businesses were "super protected."

Recently, one of her favorite local bars was given money by the government. "The government offered to pay the owners rent for a few months to encourage her to open," she said. Isabel says China is doing this to help get the economy flowing again.

"There was a lot of hesitation. There were a couple of days where things were wide open, but the only people out were the employees and me," she said.

In America, most people are under a stay-at-home order, and businesses closed. The government is coming up with ways to help, including the upcoming stimulus payment.

"We still have a long time to go for people who are not making income, but have to pay their bills," Apryl Alexander, a clinical psychology professor at the University of Denver who studies stress, said. She said America might have a longer way to go before things start to feel "normal" again.

"Can we go back to sports events in months? People are still talking about football and all that, and I'm like, 'oh, I'm not so sure that we're going to be able to go back into stadiums,'" Alexander said. "What is this going to look like in the next year where we're not going to have specific resources, individual opportunities. We need to be prepared for that and realize that this is going to be a long process," she explained.

While businesses gradually open in China, Isabel is seeing more people out and about -- so we asked if social distancing was still a measure taken there. "It's a thing of the past; the personal space bubbles here are very, very small anyway," she said.

As COVID-19 cases in the U.S. continue to rise, people are comparing other countries' efforts to ours.

"In China, it seems like they had a collaborative response," Alexander said. "I think the confusion here in the U.S. was in the differences in responses from state to state, which led to a lot of confusion, which led to a lot of fear."

Consulting firm McKinsey & Company recently wrote a study on the economic impact of the pandemic. One of their predictions showed it could take until 2023 for the U.S. to recover from the effects of the virus.

"It's going to be a multi-step process. In the short term, what things do we need to roll out to make sure we feel safe," Alexander said. "Making sure that we set up support for our communities is essential."

"We're never going to be the same again; I hope we learn a lot from it," Alexander said.