Joplin family shares struggles getting home from China in midst of Coronavirus scares

Joplin Health Department says risk for catching coronavirus locally is low

JOPLIN, Mo. – The Wu’s decided to visit Wuxi for the Chinese New Year, meeting up with old friends and family. The holiday was quickly overshadowed, though, with fears of the coronavirus spreading.

“The actual day of the New Year celebration, things just went crazy. It was all over the news, it was all over everybody’s phones, and it was epidemic at that point so everybody got scared,” said Tricia Wu, a Joplin resident.

Overnight, Wu says the town transformed.

Mask, coronavirus fears

People line up outside a pharmacy buying masks for protection.

“We’re in a city of 4 million people and it was like a ghost town. We went to the market, empty, alleyways, empty markets. It was just actually very frightening to see all the emptiness.”

After Mexico announced it was cancelling all flights from china, she called American Airlines for an earlier flight, worrying America would do the same.

“Nothing was available. They said that everyone was booking left and right just trying to get out of China. There was absolutely nothing available and we were best just to hold on to our reserved seats, so we held on, not knowing what our fate was going to be…and it was very frightening,” Wu shared.

The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a global health emergency. Commercial carriers have suspended or reduced routes to and from China, but the Joplin Health Department says this should be put in perspective and that the actual risk of catching the coronavirus here is low.

“As far as risk to people traveling here, within the country, there’s really minimal risk there. Last year 2018-2019 flu season, in the U.S., there were about 34,000 deaths that were connected with the flu, so that kinda puts this in perspective,” stated Ryan Talken, Interim Director with the Joplin Health Department.

Wu will be wearing a mask like this one and replacing it often, changing it as she changes planes entering airports on her journey home, but that’s not the only precaution she’ll be taking.

“I think we’ll just go ahead and let the health department know that we’re coming in and that we’re just gonna stay at home,” said Wu.

The Wu family plans on isolating themselves for at least a week to make sure no coronavirus symptoms appear. Health officials remind the public there is no cause for panic.

Empty Market

A normally crowded market in Wuxi is sparse after coronavirus scares.

“We’re in discussions with the state health department who’s in discussions with the CDC, so as the Joplin Health Department, and I think I can speak for Joplin medical as a whole, we are watching this and we’ve got everybody’s best interest,” Talken stated.

Joplin airport officials say the Wu’s will go through a system of checks before arriving in Joplin and would be pulled off their flight if they were ill.

More about the coronavirus.

“Corona viruses are not uncommon. There’s a lot of them out there. Most of the time, though, they are found in animals and typically humans are not the actual host of them,” explained Talken.