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Yale 62

Coping with COVID-19, Hong Kong Style
By William Stork

Living through SARS and now COVID-19, there are some differences and yet some similarities! Here is how those have helped me with the current impact.

First, it is important to distinguish between the TWO things: the disease and the epidemic. As for dealing with the disease, I have outlined proper steps in my most recent article #4 on March 10. More excellent info as of today from

As for the epidemic, in my mind there really are TWO epidemics. The first is that caused by the disease about which the news is regularly reporting. The second and perhaps more important is that caused by anxiety/panic/changed habits.

So, if everyone is following good hygiene, is following social distancing or — even better – is in sequestration, then the issue is how to deal with the mental health demands that this second ‘epidemic’ might bring. This is what I would like to address here.

Adopt – Adapt – Adept! In Dick Riseling’s excellent article, he and his partner Sonja, through discussion, came to decisions as to what new procedures they could adopt and yet maintain their original vision. Existing projects and procedures they were able to adapt in light of person-to-person distancing. As these were increasing successful and received well by others, they became adept with their new efforts and seem to be well-placed to weather the otherwise severe tsunami that would have engulfed them.
The critical thing is to realize that life WILL be different and that behaviours and patterns need to be reviewed also!

Empathy and Positivity! Having some experience with SARS, I knew that these were most important, and I knew that Jasmine’s life would meet a drastic change, as all the travel restrictions and other factors meant that her projects would no longer have her in-person contact. It seems as if SWMBO has adapted well!  She seems to be managing her projects just fine remotely, having two smart-phones and a laptop going with constant conversations. But being home-bound, she has taken on two new ‘projects’ – one being keeping me on a short leash! The other is in relation to her financial acumen, about which she seems to be hardwired. In Hong Kong there are three or four free-to-air TV channels that follow the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and discussions about specific stocks. Her daily routine now is to pick the Hong Kong Economic Times out of the cloth sack hanging on our doorknob and to review it before the market opens here. The TV is on all day, as are podcasts and phone calls. I am happy that she is so enjoying this new activity. [I don’t mind the noise; I had sound-cancelling ear muffs delivered!]

Perhaps this statistic might startle you, but for me – at my age and with pre-existing conditions – I am in self-quarantine and this is for me Week Eight. Yup, home-bound for two months so far, and it seems to be working! I don’t look at it as being locked up in a cell, but more of being abandoned on a desert island with my loved one. And I have looked at this opportunity to get to know her better and to share experiences and thoughts with her (when she comes up for air when the market closes and the commentators begin to repeat themselves). I am not going to mention the Robinson Crusoe paradigm. Here’s why.

Carve out your own space! Being isolated in the same place can create situations of discord, and it is important that no one become ‘master.’  However, some give-and-take is good for the ongoing harmony and that should be the agreed-upon goal. One example: Self-isolation is a great opportunity to learn something new, and after three days of reading reviews and other research I ordered an AirFryer. It arrived and SWMBO said, “Not in MY kitchen!” The unopened carton remains by the front door. I am now allowed in the kitchen to brew coffee, wash dishes and such after meals (but not pots or the wok), and if she is in the kitchen I stay out. No, it is not important to assert my right to pillage the fridge whenever I want.

I have a small room for my office, and it is there where I happily retreat to do my own ‘staying positive’ … and I have a variety of projects, so if any one needs suggestions, let me know! So far I have sent off IRS 1040 stuff, renewed my US passport for another decade (expensive in Hong Kong), written at the request of a college official my memories of four summers spent at that college with a special National Science Foundation grant, and have even created a file of other ‘memories’ – not a memoir – for later distribution to family members. (An example: one California morning my father and I left home at the same time, he to work and me to high school. He exclaimed, “Bright sun!” and I replied, “Thank you!”). Also I have been sending outrageous puns to family members, looking for other FUN endeavours such as creating Challenge Contests and also Puzzle Moments, and otherwise looking for humour wherever I can find it. As an aside, I happened to stumble upon the 1950s episodes of Grouch Marx’s You Bet Your Life. If laughter is the best medicine, I take two doses before bedtime! If you need suggestions, DO let me know!

Find something outside of your home area in which you can be socially involved. Here in Hong Kong the Yale Club is mobilizing to help Yale New Haven Hospital and NYC hospitals by working with a pair of Yale alums in Shanghai who have access to purchase FDA-approved N95 surgical masks and surgical gloves in bulk for low price, then to ship same to destination by DHL.
So far 700 cases of gloves, half to New Haven and half to NYC, and almost 9000 masks, 4000 sent so far to Yale and some of the rest to designated hospitals in NYC. More are about to be purchased and shipped. Should an alum out there have a specific hospital needing masks they will provide masks to the donor’s hospital … so far 70 donors [US$32,000; RMB 277,169; HK$49,282. Form is at

Also, Zeng Hong, a 2020 Yale-China Arts Fellow is looking for conversation with women of diverse backgrounds about immigration experiences and identity for her project of creating a virtual gallery of photos showing different peoples’ stories. She want to hear stories from females in your family; she can be contacted via email at

Stay safe, Stay healthy, Stay positive, and Stay home!


We welcome your comments below.

1 comment to Coping with COVID-19, Hong Kong Style

  • Larry Price

    William: Hong Kong is a very densely populated area and is certainly much closer to Wuhan than we are. (NYC) Yet, you have been much more successful (lower infection rate, lower fatality rate) than we have been. What are you doing differently?

    Are things beginning to abate after two months?

    Larry Price