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Ohio Valley Native Dealing With Virus In Japan

By Staff | Mar 18, 2020

Joe Hindman, a resident of Nagoya, Japan, who is from New Martinsville, wears a surgical-style mask to guard against contracting the COVID-19 virus.

As Japan closes schools and runs short on some supplies amid efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19, an Ohio Valley native living there with his family plans to hunker down at home until the worst of the outbreak passes.

Joe Hindman hails from New Martinsville, but he has lived and worked as a teacher in Japan for 16 years. Hindman teaches junior high English, while his wife, Momoe, teaches English at the high school level. They and their children, Leo, 11, and Noah, 9, are now spending a lot of time at home together, since schools in the city of Nagoya where they live have closed as a precaution against the virus.

“Things are really not a problem right now ,” Hindman earlier said this week. “There’s been a bit of a run on toilet paper and tissues, but it’s not the kind of pell-mell hoarding that went on after the earthquake and tsunami years ago.

“There has also been a run on facemasks and rubbing alcohol,” he continued. “Those are sold out everywhere as well. Not that they actually make that much difference, but it does keep people aware of when they’re touching their face or to remind them not to.”

In addition, Hindman said a lot of facilities where large crowds gather are closing, including Tokyo Disney and a lot of other amusement parks, museums, art galleries, aquariums, and theaters. News reports also indicate that large sporting events are also being canceled or scaled down. Already there is concern about whether the Summer Olympics, scheduled to take place in July and August in Tokyo, will go ahead as planned.

But Hindman feels fairly confident that the virus will not have a devastating impact in the island nation.

“There are relatively few cases here, especially when compared to China. I think that it was just seen as being not worth continuing the school year with only two weeks left before three weeks of spring break when faced with a potential risk that’s not entirely understood,” he said. “Japan is very practically minded, I think.”

According to the World Health Organization, more than 93,000 cases of the novel coronavirus, which originated in China, had been confirmed worldwide as of Thursday. Of those, more than 80,000 were in China, with 2,984 related deaths there.

The WHO said 284 cases had been confirmed in Japan by Thursday. Published reports, however, put the number at 1,023 with 706 of those being from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which was quarantined off the coast after it was discovered a passenger had been infected with COVID-19. The Japanese Health Ministry estimates as many as 3,000 people in the country may have contracted the virus.

Hindman said the Japanese population is generally more healthy than that of many other countries, including the United States. He said, for example, that flu-related deaths in Japan each year can be counted in the dozens rather than the thousands.

“It’s really a pointed example of how a nation that has full access to medical care on a basic level excels at keeping its population healthier,” he said.

He did acknowledge that there is potential for COVID-19 to become a serious problem in Japan.

“You have to remember that we have approximately a third of the population of the U.S. squished into an area the size of Montana,” he added, noting that a little less than a quarter of the land is actually used due to the mountains.

“It’s also a society where people don’t shake hands and people keep a safe distance,” he continued. “There’s not very much hugging going on in general. And, a lot of information has been shared time and again regarding influenza and how to avoid it.

“It’s cheap, easy, and quick to get a flu diagnosis, and it is actually a crime to go to school or work with the disease.”

Hindman calls his home city of Nagoya “the world’s largest small town.” It is a port city with a population of 2.3 million and is located in the southern portion of Japan along the Pacific coast.

“People are friendly, crime is low, and it seems like being in a place like New Martinsville to me only there’s always a huge number of options of places to go and things to do that I wouldn’t normally get, and the sushi is definitely better!” Hindman said.

He and is family are off from school for a little more than the next month. He said they have plenty of supplies and don’t plan to go out much at all during their time off. He believes his community will weather the virus outbreak well.

“In general, I think people are prepared but some have been caught off guard and others are just worried,” he concluded.