US protest behaviour ‘blows my mind’

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Scrambling out of the United States of America during a pandemic was not something Hannah Miller thought she would ever experience.

Miller, a cross-country and track runner, was finishing her senior year at Southern Methodist University in Texas when Covid-19 began to spread.

She planned to stay but when New Zealand went into lockdown she returned home with Southland teammate Atipa Mabonga. They booked tickets on March 20 and flew two days later.

“I had to pack my entire apartment in that time, which was maddening,” Miller said.

There were eight passengers on their flight to San Francisco and 30 on their flight to Auckland.

“Auckland was a bit of a shock . . . We arrived Tuesday so the terminal was full of people scrambling to get home before the lockdown like us.

“We didn’t get tested which I found a wee bit odd, just asked where we would be isolating and where we had been in the past month.”

The pair isolated in Te Anau for 14 days, before Miller returned to her family in Glencoe.

The contrast between America and New Zealand’s response was not lost on her.

“When I left Texas I think the feeling towards Covid was one of two extremes were being ridiculous, stockpiling everything and freaking out to the point they were putting others at danger, or they didn’t care and they were very relaxed about everything.

“I would be interested to be on the ground there now with the reality of the situation a lot more obvious.” However she was grateful to have returned before the protests began.

“The protests blow my mind. It’s hard when those are the only images we see of America on the other side of the world and that’s not the majority by a long shot .. I do still find it nearly impossible to comprehend why people would block roads and entranceways to hospitals in the middle of a pandemic.

“I understand for a lot of Americans jobs are in some ways more important than they are here because .. more healthcare and insurance is tied to employment, but in the short term protesting health care to save the economy is literally killing people.”

Being in New Zealand was “refreshing”.

“I believe [it’s] typical of the Kiwi attitude; we put our heads down and get to work doing what we have to and we stick it out together.”