Raleigh man shares experiences of being in China, U.S. amid COVID-19

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A Raleigh man is sharing his story after being in China when the COVID-19 outbreak started and making it back to the U.S.

Charles Harris visits China multiple times a year for both business and family.

A few days after arriving this January, the U.S. rerouted flights from Wuhan. He was in Shenzhen, which is hundreds of miles away.

“I didn’t get scared because of it, but you know it’s in my opinion that when an agency does something like that, they know something,” said Harris.

He soon noticed a doubled police presence.

He visited family in the countryside, then returned to Shenzhen before the city shut down.

Stores closed, everyone’s whereabouts were monitored and temperatures taken.

“I mean seriously I had my temperature scanned thousands of times probably.”

He said the state-run media ran reassuring reports as talk of the virus became censored.

“The Chinese weren’t panicking at all. These people were not afraid,” said  Harris. “It’s different when you see the world shut down like that. It’s a unique thing, just because the government said so; That was wild.”

When he finally caught a flight back to the US at the end of February, he first landed in New York. He said there was no push for self-distancing among travelers as they shared pens to fill out paperwork. 

“It wasn’t a very confidence-inspiring problem; It didn’t increase my feeling that something was very bad.” 

Harris said officials told him quarantining was optional when he returned to Raleigh. Then the local health officials in Wake County called him and said otherwise.

“They seemed real shocked at that. They’re like, ‘Are you serious?'”

Harris said the panic and media coverage about the virus have been vastly different in the U.S. than in China — As are our freedoms.

“They don’t generally think of their privacy on a daily basis inside China. We do.”

He wants it to stay that way, hoping this is an experience the country learns and grows from.
“It’s been quite stressful as a business owner and somebody that has family in both countries. This has been a wild ride for sure.”

Harris said one way he’s decompressing right now is by writing. He plans to write a book.

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