‘It just feels unusual to be close to people’: Coloradan in Shanghai explains life after COVID-19

Posted at 6:17 PM, Apr 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-22 07:32:24-04

SHANGHAI – The past three months have been particularly strange for Lucas Crouch, a Coloradan currently residing in Shanghai, China.

“Yeah, it was like, terrifying when that happened, it was super terrifying,” Crouch recalled, talking about what it was like when the coronavirus outbreak was pummeling China, where the new virus is believed to have originated from an animal market in the city of Wuhan.

Crouch, who spoke with Denver7 this week about his firsthand experience of living through a pandemic, said he had episodes of panic during those long three months, with one particular moment making him realize how dire the situation really was.

“I saw a drone flying and spraying things in the air – I think it was disinfectant – and it was strange being here,” Crouch said.

For the Coloradan who moved to China in order to teach, watching it all unfold again back home was similar to experiencing “waves of panic,” he told Denver7.

“So right now, I’m in the wave that this has been happening for three months now and I think the infection rate here in Shanghai is low enough that things have opened back up – almost everything has opened back up – and people are kind of resuming life as normal,” he said.

But what does that look like after a pandemic? And what could Coloradans expect when social distancing restrictions and stay-at-home orders are a thing of the past?

Crouch can’t speculate what federal, state and local governments will do here in the U.S. but offered a glimpse into what China is doing to try and mitigate the spread of the new virus after a 76-day lockdown in Wuhan was lifted earlier this month.

He said going to restaurants is not what it used to be.

“They’ll take your temperature just to let you in,” he said, adding some places require you to show a digital ID of sorts using an app that tracks where you’ve been and will determine your risk factor (color-coded in green, yellow or red) of infection based on your travel history.

He said restaurants will only let you into their premises if your profile shows you are not a risk factor for transmitting the disease.

Social norms have also changed. Handshakes and hugs have been replaced by fist bumps (though those are still tricky depending on how well you know the person), and social distancing measures – though not as strict as they once were - remain ingrained in the psyche of residents trying to get back to life after COVID-19.

“It just feels unusual to be that close to people,” Crouch said, recalling the first time he went to his Jujitsu class in three months. “For a while you’re a little bit afraid to be close or to touch people. It still takes some getting used to.”

Crouch said meeting up with friends is another form of exercise in and of itself, as he’s not sure of the right thing to do when socializing with people he already knows.

“There’s still some caution involved,” Crouch said.

Despite it all, Crouch said he now feels comfortable and safe in China, but said he still worries about passing on COVID-19 to somebody else who might be at higher risk of suffering severely because of it, especially given his teaching profession – passing it on to his students is a worry that preoccupies his mind every now and then.

For the Coloradan, life is returning back to normal, in a way, as for the country?

“A lot of businesses are open now and if you just look outside at the street, things are pretty much back to normal,” he said.

China, which currently has 82,758 cases of the new virus, reported 11 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday. More than 4,600 people have been killed from the disease. A total of 77,123 people have recovered.