HBO Documentary Films recently released In the Same Breath, which chronicles the COVID 19 outbreak in Wuhan and the Chinese government’s response. Any anti-Chinese sentiment from COVID-19 will be dispelled when you realize how horribly the innocent Chinese residents in Wuhan suffered. But you will also find yourself angrier at the behavior of the totalitarian Chinese government, which allowed their people and the world to suffer in an effort to absolve China.
The documentary was written by Nanfu Wang; a former resident of Wuhan, who now lives in the US with her American husband and son. In January 2020, they traveled to Wuhan for the holidays to visit her family and had a terrifying ringside seat to the crisis.
She was able to return to the United States (without being tested or quarantined) in January; but her unique connections allowed her to get a close view into the desperate situation; despite the attempts of the Chinese government to keep the curtains tightly closed.
The losses Wuhan’s citizens endured were staggering and painful. The Chinese government responded by ruthlessly keeping a lid on the severity of the virus; and providing limited treatment to its infected citizens.
In January, Wang became aware that something unusual was happening in Wuhan when she discovered postings of medical records by Wuhan residents seeking medical treatment. She eventually counted over 1500 people who posted their symptoms and Xrays, begging for medical care. (She has recently tried to contact them; and discovered that none had survived.) She tried unsuccessfully to interest national newspapers in the story.
On New Year’s Day, the Chinese press announced that 8 doctors had been punished for spreading lies about a deadly respiratory disease emanating from the wet seafood market in Wuhan. In fact, all that the doctors had done was to create a chat room to warn family members and fellow scientists about a new deadly pneumonia emerging in the Wuhan “wet” market.
As more and more citizens posted their medical data in a desperate search for treatment, Wang hired videographers to quietly film the events. What they discovered was tragic. The Wuhan health care system was overwhelmed, and people were dying in hospital parking lots and on nearby streets waiting for a bed to open up. Ambulance workers carrying infected people were refused admission, who were sent home to die a painful death. It was heart wrenching to listen to a widow’s story about getting on her knees and vainly begging hospitals to care for her sick physician husband.
Their suffering would be a microcosm of the chaos and heartbreak that would follow due to the behavior of the Chinese government. The lies spread by the repressive Chinese regime would ultimately result in 4.55M deaths worldwide and 670K deaths in the US. It is painful to watch Dr. Fauci repeating false medical information provided by the Chinese; including: “this is not a serious virus, it is just a flu;” “it cannot be spread between humans;” “there is no need for masks in the United States;” “the virus is not a threat to US citizens.”
Factual information didn’t become available until the virus had bled into Europe and the Chinese government could no longer contain the disinformation. Scientists began compiling data about the disease in real-time, but it was too late. Our open borders had allowed people to move freely between China and the US. It wouldn’t have mattered. It is now clear that the disease was rampant in Wuhan in mid-December; long before rumors began spreading in January. China not only lied to the world; it lied to its citizens. The few courageous Chinese independent journalists who attempted to chronicle the situation have disappeared, most believe they have been killed.
The lies continue. Chinese officials claim their official death total is 4,600 citizens; but some anonymous workers have provided clues suggesting the death total is probably around 42k to 45K. State run mortuaries announced a two week time-period for family members to quickly and quietly gather urns filled with their loved one’s ashes.
Anyone brave enough to be interviewed for this documentary has probably disappeared or been punished. The few who agreed to talk, professed praise for China and their good fortune to live there. One young man courageously refused to do so; I hope he is still alive.
Years before, Wang had moved to the US so she could live in a free society.
But there were surprises in store for her in the US. After witnessing the suffering in Wuhan, she was disheartened by the demonstrations against masks, COVID 19 deniers, and anti-vaxers. Since April 1st, (when the vaccine was readily available in the US), there have been over 110K deaths in the US from COVID 19. I recently spoke to a contact tracer who indicated that some people who test positive refuse to self-quarantine or wear a mask. Our healthcare workers remain overwhelmed from treating people who refuse to protect themselves and their fellow US citizens under the auspices of freedom.
The world paid a high price for China’s absence of freedom.
But there is also a price to pay for too much freedom.
Angela Rieck, a Caroline County native, received her PhD in Mathematical Psychology from the University of Maryland and worked as a scientist at Bell Labs, and other high-tech companies in New Jersey before retiring as a corporate executive. Angela and her dogs divide their time between St Michaels and Key West Florida. Her daughter lives and works in New York City.