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Some People Haven't Left Their Homes In Weeks, American In Wuhan Says

Feb 10, 2020
Originally published on February 10, 2020 8:01 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The coronavirus has killed more than 900 people in China now. That's according to China's National Health Commission. The death toll now surpasses that of the SARS outbreak in 2002 and 2003. Officials work to learn more about this illness. Governments are trying to contain it.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And all of this is affecting people around the globe. That includes the Blouin family. Ilona and Claude Blouin are among the hundreds of Americans in U.S. quarantine after they traveled to China. They were visiting their son in Wuhan, which is the center of the epidemic, when the entire city was locked down.

CLAUDE BLOUIN: That's when we became very concerned because the airport was closed, all the subways, the buses, the ferries. They weren't allowing cars to drive out of the city, and we felt, you know, trapped.

INSKEEP: The couple was eventually able to get a flight back to the U.S. and spoke with us from Travis Air Force Base in California.

ILONA BLOUIN: We're able to go out into the grass, but there's a fence around.

CLAUDE BLOUIN: Yeah, and there's many U.S. marshals outside the fence, the area, making sure that nobody goes in and out.

GREENE: But, really, their biggest worry is their son, Craig. He lives in Wuhan. He decided to stay behind.

CRAIG BLOUIN: Everyone's very scared, I think.

INSKEEP: Craig connected with us via Skype from Wuhan, which is a city of millions.

CRAIG BLOUIN: People don't really know when it's going to end. Most people just stay at home. I know some people that haven't gone outside for weeks.

GREENE: Craig says if you do venture out, there is very little available to you.

CRAIG BLOUIN: Like, all transportation is closed. There's hardly any cars on the road. Most stores are closed. There are a couple isolated grocery stores and pharmacies are still open. And a couple days ago, I went to one of the grocery stores, and the inventory is getting kind of low. They still restock fresh vegetables, apparently, but I know it's, like, they're running low on, like, rice. And this is China. People eat a lot of rice.

INSKEEP: He says people took his temperature before letting him enter the grocery store; same thing happened when he visited a colleague.

CRAIG BLOUIN: I went to my co-worker's apartment the other day because he had some cat food for my cat because everything's closed. You can't find food, you know, for your pets. And they checked my temperature going into his apartment before I even got there. Some apartments, they even go door to door. They actually show up at your door to check to see if you have a fever.

GREENE: And, according to Craig, some apartment buildings have been locked down completely.

CRAIG BLOUIN: If there's a few sick people from that apartment, they will just close it down and don't let anyone come out. And hopefully, they have food.

INSKEEP: Now, Craig is a math teacher in Wuhan, and the disease has also affected his job.

CRAIG BLOUIN: I will be teaching online to my students.

GREENE: Craig's parents tell us that it was really tough to leave him in China.

I BLOUIN: Oh, I'm heartbroken. You know, you worry about your baby.

INSKEEP: But he's been there for six years and does not plan to leave.

CRAIG BLOUIN: Wuhan's starting to feel like my home here. I have - I made a lot of friends in Wuhan, and it feels like my home is here now.

GREENE: The city now has been on lockdown for almost three weeks. But Craig is remaining in good spirits. Here is what he said when we thanked him for speaking with us yesterday.

CRAIG BLOUIN: Yeah, well, I have nothing else to do lately. I'm just in my apartment all the time (laughter).

INSKEEP: Math teacher Craig Blouin waiting out the coronavirus in Wuhan, China. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.