Published: June 2, 2021

The Wuhan Diary and My Personal Accounts of the COVID-19 Pandemic

I come from a Carribean country that faces the brutalities of a communist and totalitarian government system, taking away the rights of their citizens and gatekeeping their liberties. However, I have never seen this stark of a political divide that unfortunately faces this country today. COVID-19 without a doubt has changed the sociopolitical landscape of the United States, as contrasting partisan members debate over the effectiveness of a simple surgical mask, as families lose their jobs and struggle to pay the pile of bills on the nightstand, and as healthcare and essential workers risk their lives everyday for the people. Just like Fang Fang in the Wuhan Diary, who speaks about the first COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, China, I am angry. I am angry, shocked, and terrified about the situation that faces billions across the world today. Fang expresses these same feelings in her accounts, speaking about Wuhan's mental health, the panic in government officials' eyes, and her personal experience with quarantine and lockdown. 

My father lost his job first. He worked a 9-5 job at a water heater company that gave him limited benefits, but provided him with enough to put food on his table. He filed for unemployment and received benefits for a good amount of time. However it was not enough to cover for rent, so he moved to a smaller efficiency off the outskirts of downtown Miami, which is where he currently lives. My mother was lucky enough to resume working from home, but she was one of the few workers at her small daycare that didn’t file for unemployment. Many were laid off, women who had full fledged families to support and undocumented family members that depended on them.

 Late March to early May was a time of crisis in my family. My mother would call our senators and representatives every day to check on any new updates surrounding the virus, and would help dozens of women at her job that didn’t know enough English to file their taxes or for unemployment. My brother remained neutral, but he missed his father, and I missed mine. I worried about my academics, my friends, my many teachers who slowly started to lose motivation in their job. At that time I resonated with something Fang said under the entry February 12, 2020, in which she stated “I’m somewhat amazed that we are somehow still able to do mundane things like share jokes with friends… it’s almost as if I’m living in a daze.” Nothing felt coherent or cut clear in the beginning months. Everything was surrounded with uncertainty, and being a girl that enjoys stability and progress, I was terrified not for the people’s current living situation or their circumstances, but for their future. 

I tested positive for COVID-19 on July 12th, 2020. I had to stay in my room for two weeks, making instant ramen noodles in my small microwave almost every day. All I could think about was my mother two doors across from me with COVID, my brother thirty miles away in quarantine with his father, and my grandmother three houses down worrying about her daughter and grandchildren, not even thinking about the fact that she too tested positive. During this time I pondered on those that had it worse than me, about those that were dying alone in crowded hospitals, for those that were mourning, and for those that had to sacrifice staying with their family and friends in order to work in helping the infected survive. 

I couldn’t imagine how much worse the situation was in Wuhan; people shouting political slogans about the Chinese Communist party, covering up the brutal reality of this virus, and assuring that everything was going to be okay. Of course, it was everything but. Fang throughout the diary questions the validity of public officials, asking “When will public officials go do their work…?” and “When will our political leaders go on a survey trip to a hospital without expecting people to sing songs of gratitude…?”. She also states that “the people infected early not only die but they face hopelessness, their cries go unanswered, their attempts for medical intervention are useless… there are too many sick people… what can they do other than just sit by and wait for death?” Essentially, there were no answers, no solutions, no cover ups, no assuring anecdotes and analogies that can better the severity of their reality. Waiting for death is all they could’ve done, and during my time in quarantine, with broken, beat down buildings posing as my window view,  I too thought the same. I waited for death, but deliberately and thoughtfully.

Over the course of the summer I had begun to work on college applications. I was an incoming senior, and if that wasn’t stressful enough, I had to take care of my mother who was still feeling sick after she tested negative for COVID-19. My brother didn’t come back until mid-August, which was the time school had started. Opening my laptop and having my first day of senior year virtually was painful. I couldn’t see my peers or my friends and see how they’ve matured over the months. I saw their faces on 3 by 4 boxes, but I knew this was the safer option, and I found comfort in that. However I missed school, and learning in person with a teacher and students all around you, desperately raising their hands to create an interpretation of the poem on the board, or comment on a supreme court case in government class, or attempt to answer a ridiculously hard math problem on the board. I missed having lunch with friends, I missed human interaction, and I missed anarchy in classrooms.  That was the least of many concerns though, so I didn’t try and ponder so much on it. When the option of physical school opened, I took it as fast as I could, and today I go to school physically five days a week, embracing student life, my teachers, and the environment that is filled with hope and academic prosperity. I take it all in now, because in a couple of months I’ll be attending a university far from home, and I thrive knowing that I’m leaving to pursue better opportunities.

I am a first generation Cuban-American student that during this pandemic has questioned everything this life consists of.  I am a student that wrote thank you letters to healthcare workers in Miami, a student that wrote accounts on the lack of mask mandates enforced by the government and the lack of direct action. I am a daughter that worried about her parents struggles as if they were hers, and worked to get into a good school so that the American Dream her parents came her for, was fulfilled. Like Fang, I am amazed at how people have handled lockdown, sharing compassion in helping others and observing their humanitarian efforts in society. The Wuhan Diary is a direct but beautifully written memoir about a woman’s experience during the beginning of lockdown in Wuhan, China, and she speaks about the harsh and unfortunate truths that still face her country today, truths that everyone who has mourned, who has lost, and who has sacrificed in this pandemic, should know today.