What China’s New COVID-19 Policy Means for Bullitt County

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Students sit down for class with one choosing to mask for protection from COVID-19. Despite being in fewer numbers, some students still do choose to wear masks. “Masks were good at regulated COVID last year, but I don’t think they should be required,” Jonathan Huether said.

Brandon Mudd, Calendar Coordinator

It echoed all around the world. 

China’s updated COVID-19 policy adds a more relaxed element to their previous one, but also sets a precedent that highlights their continued dedication to fighting the disease. 

China has opted to continue their Zero COVID policy, but has taken out some of the more unpopular elements of it, and added brand new ones in their place. However, in Bullitt County, and the United States as a whole, work to stop the virus has seemingly disappeared. Cases of illness in the county are on the rise and many are beginning to question if creating new policy with the goal of stopping the spread of the virus is something that Bullitt County should consider.

The main element that China has taken out of its Zero COVID policy is the need for secondary contacts to quarantine after exposure. “If you were in IKEA when someone was notified that they were a secondary contact, the whole store would be locked down with everyone inside for 48 hours at least,” Columnist and Filmmaker of the Shanghai United Media Group Andy Boreham said. Boreham brings up an example of something that actually occurred before the 20 amendments to the Zero COVID policy.

“For me, it meant everywhere I went I carried a phone charger and two weeks of my daily medication,” Boreham said. Whenever a citizen of China went out, they had to be prepared to be locked down at all times. This is something that will, mostly, change with the new policy. It is still a possible occurrence if someone becomes a primary contact of a confirmed case, but the number of primary contacts is significantly lower than secondary contacts, which will make the store-wide, apartment-wide and city-wide lockdowns that have been occurring over the past couple of months essentially impossible. 

“Up until our massive lockdown earlier this year, Shanghai had been largely untouched by COVID,” Boreham said. This is something that many Americans don’t take into account whenever they see what is happening in China right now. The entirety of the United States was hit with COVID-19 in 2020. However, due to China’s strategic restriction of the disease, many areas like Shanghai were completely untouched until recently. This is why it seems to most Americans that they are taking such extreme measures now to control the disease because most Americans aren’t aware about these vulnerable untouched areas. 

“You see these super restrictive policies in China because China has learned it’s an easy way to control its people,” teacher Jonathan Huether said. Despite this being a common sentiment carried out by most people in the United States, many Chinese people look at it a different way. “Many Western pundits try to imply that the reasoning is political and that Beijing is just trying to exert more and more power over the population, but I see no evidence of that,” Boreham said, “China’s reasoning for sticking with COVID Zero is simple: it’s to save lives.” The COVID Zero policy has led to 5,226 total deaths in China, according to Our World in Data, compared to the 1,070,00 total deaths in the United States, according to the New York Times, where there were much less extreme COVID-19 prevention policies.

Many Western pundits try to imply that the reasoning is political and that Beijing is just trying to exert more and more power over the population, but I see no evidence of that. China’s reasoning for sticking with COVID Zero is simple: it’s to save lives.”

— Andy Boreham

Today in Bullitt County, the absence rate in schools is on the rise. Much of this is due to a brand new Influenza season. However, COVID-19 also contributes. Last year, many students wore masks to protect themselves in such a vulnerable time. However, this year, hardly anyone is seen wearing one in the halls. Many districts have opted to take occasional non-traditional instruction (NTI) days to combat disease transmission. “As a district, we have 10 NTI days that are available for us to use. My preference would be not to use NTI days if we can keep from it because even though NTI can be a great tool to use sporadically, I don’t feel it’s best for long-term instruction,” Bullitt County Public Schools Superintendent Jesse Bacon said. The use of NTI days is an incredibly controversial subject in the county, so they are something Bacon intends to only use as absolutely needed. 

The current attendance rate in the district is still above 90%, which is still seen as an acceptable rate. If the rate drops below this, then it is a possibility that measures such as NTI days will be used to counter the disease. “For me, I feel like choice is important in regulating COVID now,” Jonathan Huether said, “I don’t think that forcing anything, whether it be a mask or a vaccine, is something that should be done.” Last year, when masks were mandated in schools, many parents attended school board meetings making this same point and eventually, got masks to be optional. 

In China, the people had been complaining about the secondary contact policy for many months. “It’s fair to say that no one wants to be locked down, and Chinese people are no exception. There is this idea in Western media that Chinese people don’t really complain, but trust me when I say they definitely do,” Boreham said. The way that parents protested a policy to get it changed at the school board, is the same way Chinese people protested a policy in their country to get it changed. However, China still maintained a restrictive COVID-19 policy whereas Bullitt County eliminated most restrictions right away. 

“For example, during the Shanghai lockdown there was a massive uproar about young children who tested positive being separated from their parents. Changes were quickly made to allow parents who were not COVID positive to accompany their children in quarantine sites,” Boreham said. Boreham listed this as a prime example of the Chinese government’s dedication to fighting the disease while balancing the will of their people.

“I think we track the numbers of COVID well, but I think that making testing more encouraged would be beneficial,” Huether said, “I think there are way more people with the disease than we think because no one is getting tested. Huether believes that further action could be considered if more testing proved a significant increase in COVID-19 cases from what is currently displayed. However, he thinks that ultimately nothing will be done this winter, and the country and district should wait until the Summer to see if cases are still rising. “If we don’t see a rise in cases over the Summer, then I think we finally have the disease under control and it will just be a part of our winter illness season,” Huether said. The line between regulating the disease and accepting it as a part of society is one that is very fine. However, the position that Heuther holds is common amongst other members of the community. 

Whether or not the district implements restrictions or NTI days, one thing remains consistent amongst the district, China and many other governments across the world: keeping the people safe is always the goal. “As a school district, our number one priority will always be to do whatever we need to do to keep our students and staff safe. That will always be our number one priority, and we will always make decisions based on that,” Bacon said.