Warren Native in China Gives Perspective on Virus Outbreak

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The big question on people’s minds is how will the spread of the coronavirus play out over the next couple months? When will life get back to normal, if it ever does?

“There might be a new normal,” says Kristian Kender.

Kender speaks from experience. The Warren native has been living in Beijing, China since 1996, so he has first-hand knowledge of what people in the United States can expect as the outbreak unfolds.  

“There’s two levels: How do you deal with it on the personal level and how do you deal with it on a business level,” he says. “One thing that cuts across both is don’t panic, don’t panic, don’t panic.”

Kender is a partner with China Media Management. His company packages films made at MGM Studios for Chinese online video sites and organizes business-to-business events for the television industry.

The company, which employs 15, took a hit early when an event that was scheduled for April had to be cancelled. 

Since then, Kender says they’ve frozen management bonuses and shareholder dividends, and cut costs where they could, though he notes, they haven’t cut salaries.

“There’s really not much to do but wait for a month,” he says.

To those businesses that are thinking of cutting their staff, Kender cautions against it. In fact, he says China Media Management has reassured all staff that if they should have to take time off due to illness or related circumstances, it won’t count towards their annual medical leave.

“We’re going to need them when we come out the other side,” he says.

On the personal side, Kender says the waiting and the uncertainty are the most difficult to deal with.

“The first couple weeks, it’s quite a shock.”

Like Ohio and Pennsylvania, bars and restaurants in Beijing were closed, large gatherings were banned and many people suddenly had to work from home. 

While some business owners may be concerned about maintaining efficiency with staff working from home, he says that in some ways, “we’re getting more done.”

Working from home has helped eliminate a lot of distractions, which he says has helped some staff, particularly those who write copy, churn out work much faster.

Kender says he feels like they’re now on the downhill side of the outbreak in China. On March 17, Wuhan, the Chinese city that first reported COVID-19, reported just one new case of the disease. 

Business has started to pick back up and in many ways life is getting back to normal, but with some small changes.

Bars and restaurants have reopened, but no more than three people are allowed at any table. At the grocery store, markers are in place to ensure people stand at least one meter apart and only a certain number of people are allowed in at any one time he says.

Practicing social distancing is now expected in social interactions, and most people walking down the street are wearing masks, he says.

“That takes some getting used to,” he says.

But there are also bright sides to the changes.

Recently, while walking outside, Kender took a phone call from some clients in Los Angeles, who asked him about noise in the background of the call.

“They meant birds,” he says. “Normally all you would hear is traffic.”

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.