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San Diego family secures spot on U.S. flight evacuating coronavirus-plagued Wuhan, China

Hundreds of people waited for hours Tuesday at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport for evacuation flights
Hundreds of people waited for hours Tuesday at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport for evacuation flights to their home countries amid an outbreak of coronavirus that has killed more than 420 people and sickened more than 20,000.
(Courtesy Yanjun Wei)

A San Diego mother and her two small children waited Tuesday with hundreds of people overnight at an airport in Wuhan, China, hoping to escape the coronavirus-plagued city.

Yanjun Wei had prepared herself to be trapped in the city for months with her 3-year-old son Rowan and 1-year-old daughter Mia. They were staying with Wei’s parents when the outbreak was first reported and the city’s 11 million people were placed under an unprecedented quarantine.

For days, Wei had emailed and called the U.S. State Department hoping to secure a spot on an evacuation flight home. Then over the weekend, she received word that she and her children had been selected.

“I’m very emotional,” the 37-year-old told the Union-Tribune via video chat on Tuesday morning before leaving for the airport. “I worry about my parents being left here.”

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Wuhan is believed to be ground zero for the coronavirus outbreak that has infected more than 20,000 people and killed more than 420. Government officials have shut down public transportation and commercial flights and restricted car travel in and out of the city with checkpoints.

Wei hired a driver to take her to the Wuhan Tianhe International Airport on Tuesday but had feared that even with the help of the State Department something could go wrong. American officials had sent out a mass email to all those being evacuated that required vehicle license plates and driver IDs to be put on file in case of an emergency.

“I’m trying not to think too much about the trip ahead so that I can have confidence,” she said. “I’m not too good about dealing with unknowns.”

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Wei arrived at the airport with little trouble only to wait for more than 8 hours to board a flight. As of Tuesday morning, neither she nor her husband Kenneth Burnett, 45, knew where she was flying to in the United States.

About 200 people remain quarantined at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County after being flown in from Wuhan last week.

Other reported destinations for evacuation flights out of the city have included the 168th Regiment Regional Training Institute in Colorado, Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, Travis Air Force Base in Solano County and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego.

“It’s probably impossible, but I have to ask, can I quarantine with them,” Burnett said from their Serra Mesa home in San Diego.

It’s still unconfirmed whether Wei and her children boarded the flight back to the United States.


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