PRATT — While China initially led the world in the highest number of COVID-19 cases, the curve of the disease has flattened and lockdown rules are lifting.
Pratt native, Andrew Johnston, has been in China for the past two years, and lived in the Anhui province during the coronavirus lockdown.
Johnston works as an instructor at Anhui Foreign Language University in Hefei City, and though his region was not hit the worst by the novel coronavirus, changes were felt.
"The restrictions ramped up at the beginning of February, right after the Spring Festival ended," Johnston said. "I'm currently living on campus, which is still mostly empty aside from a few other teachers, mostly locals. The campus is on the edge of the city and the businesses that usually service the universities are closed when classes aren't in session."
Though everything was closed until recently, Johnston said entrance to public spaces is still highly regulated.
"A lot of businesses are open now. In fact, I've been going out on weekends just like I used to," Johnston said. "The catch is that many of those businesses are restricted and require the use of a health code that I don't have. Many foreigners have been having problems with that, I'm told."
After years of working on and off in China, Johnston said he had not originally planned to return for work but changed his mind when job opportunities became harder to find in the United States.
After COVID-19 spread throughout China, Johnston began teaching his classes remotely but the transition did not come without its challenges.
"There was never any plan for distance classes, so we're all making it up as we go," Johnston said.
Just days before China went into lockdown, Johnston’s parents — Mike and Nita Johnston — had been visiting Andrew. They arrived Jan. 11 and departed Jan. 18.
Mike Johnston, Pratt resident and father of Andrew Johnston, said they had been tracking the situation on the news since they first read about the outbreak in December. Other than a few people wearing masks when they arrived, Johnston said things were pretty much business as usual.
Since returning to the US from China, Mike Johnston said it has bothered him hearing stereotypes and misinformation.
"I think that Chinese people certainly aren’t to blame," Johnston said. "My experience with Chinese people is nothing but positive."