Editor’s note: Bingyuan Zhuo is employed by Orange Media Network as the marketing team lead, and sometimes works with The Daily Barometer.
This Q&A is the first in a 19-part series, “19 COVID-19 Stories,” updated on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, diving into the unique perspectives of the Corvallis community as they face COVID-19 and all its social and economic effects.
Bingyuan Zhuo is a first-year Oregon State University graduate student, studying business analytics. Zhuo graduated from Oregon State University with a double bachelor’s degree in business administration (management and marketing) in 2019. Zhuo is currently in his home in Corvallis, Ore. practicing social distancing under Gov. Kate Brown’s executive order to stay at home. As an international student, Zhuo previously saw both quarantines and social distancing in Singapore during the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak in the early 2000s. Social distancing refers to the practice of staying apart from one another to prevent the spread of disease, and quarantine refers specifically to separating people who have been exposed to a disease from those who have not, however social distancing was not a phrase in use at the time of the SARS outbreak and quarantine was used as an umbrella term.
When was your first experience with quarantine? What was it like, and how long did it last?
In Singapore back when the SARS outbreak happened in 2003, and I was 12 at that time. The first case was reported around February and home quarantine came into effect around March or April. I remember that school was closed and everyone was required to stay at home and avoid large crowds. At that time, I was still quite young, but I was able to grasp the severity of the virus outbreak because there was a news report on television (that was before the age of social media, so you got news typically from the TV, radio or newspaper). I was not able to go out normally to hang out with friends and play sports, and that was a huge deal because we were not connected online. I spent most of the time playing with Lego sets until the big package of homework arrived in the mail (which I doubt I completed). I think it lasted for a month or so, and I remember that there were preventative exercises put in place in school. We had to take our temperature twice a day when we went to school, and personal hygiene was emphasized. I am pretty sure the quarantine was in effect for those who had contact with people who were diagnosed with SARS and those that recovered. I do not really remember if the quarantine was mandatory for every household, but people were generally self-quarantined so as not to take any chances.
What are some of the similarities between your first quarantine experience and your current experience with COVID-19?
It is about finding something to do during the extra amount of free time. Being away from school means that I can pace myself on my homework or assignments and also find time to finally do things that you normally did not have the time. When I was 12, the priority was always to go back to my Lego sets, while now it is all about catching up to shows and video games that I have been putting off.
Are there any perspectives you gained from either experience that you would like to share?
From this current situation of social distancing, I feel that many people have not grasped that it is important to stamp out the spread of the virus before it gets out of control. I feel that it is important to stay calm and take a step back to get a wider perspective on the situation. I was pretty sure that even in quarantine, basic necessities such as groceries will not be entirely cut off. I figured that I had enough supplies and I could head to the supermarket quickly and back if I needed more, and as long as I take precautions such as distancing and wiping down, I will be fine.
In regards to COVID-19, what has been the hardest part of this situation for you?
The hardest part is actually to continue working and school work online. I prefer the personal face-to-face conversation as opposed to over webcams, which I find awkward sometimes. Also, with my project that will be pretty important in spring term coming up, I will have to adapt to this online meeting style quickly. Also, working from the comfort of home is hard, because all the distractions are right there in front of me.
What has been the most uplifting part of this situation?
I finally found time to test or improve on some recipes that I have always wanted to try, and I am happy now that I have the time to do it. Cooking and baking has always helped me take my mind off stressful matters and give myself some time to reload. I find that it is very effective in relieving stress, and it is helpful to come back to the problems with a fresh perspective.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I think it is important to focus on the positives at times like this, then look at how we can prepare better for the future if something similar ever happens.