In Beijing, the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic seems to be over. Though the city remains on lockdown, signs of life—new traffic and airplanes overhead—have returned, Hailey resident and international track and field coach Randy Huntington says.
Spanning over four decades, Huntington’s career has produced world-champion sprinters and Olympic medalists in long jump. From his training facility in Beijing, the head coach of the Chinese Athletic Association spoke with the Express over Skype last week.
Q: What’s day-to-day life in quarantine been like?
A: You’re locked down in your apartment most of the time, and the only time you see people is on the bus or in the weight room—we’re shuttled between the training facility and our apartments, about a kilometer apart. The bus drivers live on site and wear masks. It’s isolating. Quarantine definitely takes some of your life away, but we are used to it by now. We can’t eat off-site or order from restaurants, but we do have our own cafeteria.
Q: How many people are you living with?
A: Our training facility houses close to 1,000 athletes from national teams—men and women’s basketball, weightlifting, track, swimming and diving, badminton. Most athletes in China were locked in training centers because of the 2020 Olympics [that were] coming up. Those that were overseas were brought back and quarantined, so many are losing access to training equipment and stuck in hotels.
Q: How is the facility regulated?
A: Our facility was shut down on January 20 to any outsiders. Our guys are all very susceptible to coronavirus—it’ll knock them out—because when you’re training this hard, you’re in an immunocompromised state. Luckily we’ve had not one illness. To give you an idea of how stern the lockdown measures are, they locked our gates and one of our coaches actually walked outside one day. He no longer works here—he was let go.
Q: Many news outlets have reported that the worst of the COVID-19 outbreak in China is over. Is there evidence of that in Beijing?
A: We’re still locked down big-time, so it’s generally hard to know what’s happening outside, but yes, an endpoint is in sight. One indicator we have is the amount of traffic, which has gone from nothing to a crazy level. I think it’s unfortunate that the virus was downplayed initially, that China wasn’t shut down fast and hard. It looks like what’s been done has worked, though. People here have handled [quarantine] instructions very well; they know how to self-distance. And everything is kept very clean—carpets have been sprayed down to kill viruses on contact.
Q: What would you like to let people in the Wood River Valley know about coronavirus?
A: This thing is a virulent little bugger and it’s very dangerous for the upper-age group. Now that it’s [in the valley], the best thing to do is exactly what you hear from doctors. Distance is your best friend right now. Even if you live with others, you should distance yourself. Have one person stay home while the other does groceries. If everyone is smart about distancing, and realizes how this thing spreads, it could go away soon. I hope it does—I only get to go home once a year to see my mother, brother and dog. I haven’t been on my skinny skis for three years! Not good.
Q: Any prevention tips?
A: I would recommend facemasks, not so much for keeping virus away from you but keeping you away from yourself. You don’t realize how much you touch your face and nose every day. Of course, wash your hands a lot. I would also recommend changing your clothes and putting them in the wash after going to the store. And, take care of yourself. We’re coming up on allergy season, and allergies are going to compromise people’s immune systems.
On Tuesday, March 24, the International Olympic Committee announced the 2020 Olympic Games will be delayed until the summer of 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.