Living in a COVID-19 quarantined world

Andrew Crooks of Wilton describes living near Wuhan, China


With the novel coronavirus COVID-19 continuing to spread nationwide, information on what the public, cities, schools and businesses are to do is ever changing.

It is spreading within Iowa as well. Gov. Kim Reynolds has held several press conferences, keeping Iowans informed of recommendations while working with information from the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

As of March 23, courtesy of the CDC, there were 42,076 cases in the U.S. and 570 deaths, with the virus present in all 50 states, including Washington, D.C. According to IDPH, there are 105 confirmed cases in Iowa, with a total of 2,043 negative test results.

Reynolds recommended March 15 that schools close for four weeks. They will remain closed until April 13.

The spread of COVID-19 originated in Wuhan, China. Former Wilton High School graduate Andrew Crooks lives closer to ground zero of the COVID-19 pandemic than perhaps anyone with local ties to the Wilton-Durant area.

Crooks, a 2000 WHS grad, went onto the University of Northern Iowa, where he received a BFA in fine art and photography. He received a MFA in photography from the University of New Mexico in 2008.

From 2008-13 he was teaching in Japan and working on art. He moved to Beijing in 2013 and started teaching at Central Academy of Fine Arts. “In 2018 I moved to Suzhou, China to start a brewery with my friend, Brad Kuhl, from Miami. We opened last summer and have been running the business since,” said Crooks.

The brewery is called Twin Tails Brewing Co. in Suzhou, China. The website is

The Advocate News asked Crooks to tell of his experience with COVID-19. What follows is an excerpt from an email he sent to AN Editor Derek Sawvell:


Andrew Crooks, in his own words

"I don’t live in Wuhan. I live in Suzhou city in Jiangsu prefecture. Near Wuhan, but not hit nearly so bad. We got in the partial quarantine, not a full lockdown, though it basically completely shut down. All restaurants, shops, non-essential businesses were forced to shut down. Some places still did delivery-only service and Yum brand fast food places adopted a ‘contactless delivery’ service. On the sales receipt it has the worker’s name and body temp along with the delivery driver’s name and temp. Pretty cool, and made it safer to get food deliveries.

"For me personally, our brewery has been affected significantly. As it’s a brewpub, we haven’t been allowed to open up again, but are currently doing take-out beer and food orders with some success. We shut the brewpub down on Jan. 20 and planned on opening on Jan 30. However, that’s when we learned of the outbreak. Everyone here freaked out, as all Chinese people remember the SARS epidemic, which has a higher case fatality rate than this one, but COVID-19 far surpassed SARS in terms of contagiousness, spread, infected patients, serious cases and total deaths by quite a lot. It’s a pretty horrible virus because the RO (amount of people a host spreads to) is so high, 4-plus in most instances. The only way to control the virus was to bring the RO to less than 1. Since it spreads asymptomatically and lingers on many surfaces (stainless steel, plastics etc.) for up to 9 days (based on SARS research). SARS only spread in symptomatic patients. There is suspected that coronavirus can aerosolize and spread for longer distances, as research found it in air ducts, as well as door handles etc. Pretty crazy stuff.

"I have NEVER experienced something like this in my life, nor have you. It’s really bad. It will quickly overrun any country’s hospital system if you can’t get the RO below 1. In late January, that’s when everyone here realized it was dire. They blocked off almost every road into communities with makeshift barricades, closed off every apartment complex, shopping mall and public areas. Traffic stopped, and everyone was scared to go out. No one trusted the government’s numbers or knew how deadly it would come to be.

"Shortly after all the barricades went up, they started doing temp checks everywhere. If you had a fever, you were forcibly taken into a quarantine facility. They literally welded entire apartment buildings shut. It was crazy, but it’s not like they were just left there to die. People were taken food through windows during their 14-day quarantines. Now, I assume they are lifting many of those. They closed a huge new mall by my place, only keeping the grocery store open. The first time I went in there, I was really nervous because I had to get my temp check and sign in my name at the entrance. I was quite worried what would happen if I had a temp. But I have never had any symptoms or fever. Never had to get tested, and rarely left my apartment for almost a month. But I basically sat at home, paranoid that I would show symptoms.

"When I go out, I have a routine. Put on my N95 mask, wear clear glasses to protect my eyes and keep away from people. The mask helps me not touch my face and the glasses help me from touching my eyes. Everyone who goes out is required to wear a mask, so it makes shopping more safe. Cashiers and workers at the grocery store wear full ppe masks and face shields/gloves. All public places are sanitized with bleach several times a day. As for things running out in stores, masks ran out quickly. Fake masks come into the market and price gouging. Now there are strict prison sentences for those people. China forced factories to start outputting millions of masks. You can see full hazmat suits worn by any government worker stationed at every entrance taking temps of those entering. Hand sanitizer ran out, initially. After a week or so, that was stocked up again.

"Toilet paper never ran out. But people were panic buying that in Hong Kong and Japan, as much was made in china. Of course, in China, it never ran out. Food never ran out, though instant noodles and frozen foods were running low after a few weeks, as shipments stopped. But now, basically, everything is getting back to normal. Restaurants are still mostly limited to take-away only. Airports have intensive screening. Temp checks still exist. Barricades are still up. But as far as the economy is concerned, it appears that factories are back in production, but probably not fully. I’d imagine the Chinese supply chain will get cranking again soon. China is going to be monitoring people pretty closely from here out, Id imagine. Temp checks will continue. I’m definitely hoping things don’t get as bad around the world, but I fear the U.S. is going to get pretty bad pretty quickly. I’d imagine if the lack of testing continues, hospitals will start being overrun in a couple of weeks and the situation gets dire after that. China had to convert sports arenas into quarantine rooms and Wuhan built that 2,000-bed hospital in 10 days to deal with it. When 15 percent of patients require hospitalization and many intensive care, you can imagine how even a few hundred cases in a city can create a really bad situation.”