scorecard'It was surreal': How a Bay Area man spent a week in China amid the coronavirus outbreak before following the CDC's advice to self-quarantine for 2 weeks after returning to the US
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'It was surreal': How a Bay Area man spent a week in China amid the coronavirus outbreak before following the CDC's advice to self-quarantine for 2 weeks after returning to the US

Katie Canales   

'It was surreal': How a Bay Area man spent a week in China amid the coronavirus outbreak before following the CDC's advice to self-quarantine for 2 weeks after returning to the US
LifeScience3 min read
coronavirus mask china man

HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images

A man, not the Bay Area resident we spoke to, is seen wearing a mask in Shanghai, China, on March 4.

  • A Bay Area resident visited Kunming in China's Yunnan province 979 miles southwest of Wuhan, where COVID-19 originated, on January 25 in the midst of the coronavirus disease outbreak.
  • Despite it being Chinese New Year, he said the streets were completely empty and the effects of the virus seemed to worsen each day, with businesses closing and stores running out of stock.
  • He was never tested for the virus nor exhibited symptoms, but he took the CDC's advice and became one of the thousands to self-quarantine with his wife and son for 14 days in his Cupertino home after returning on February 2.
  • Seeing how differently the Chinese and US governments each handled the virus convinced him that he feels safer in China than he does on American soil.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

It was a strange sight in Kunming, China, for Chinese New Year.

The 40-day event celebrates the beginning of the new year in the traditional Chinese calendar. Also known as the Lunar New Year Spring Festival, 3 billion trips are made throughout China during the holiday and many in the country typically are off work. It's a time to spend with family and is a cause for celebration.

But for a 36-year-old UX designer from Cupertino - who requested to stay anonymous but whose identity was verified by Business Insider - who visited China from January 25 to February 2, it was a ghost town. The streets were empty, and many opted to stay indoors, the man told Business Insider over the phone.

The US citizen and Bay Area resident of 20 years, along with five relatives including his wife, also hunkered down in a relative's home throughout their visit as COVID-19 gripped the country and would later spread across the globe.

COVID-19, a respiratory disease caused by a novel coronavirus, started in Wuhan in China's Hubei province 979 miles northeast of Kunming and began to spread across China and into other parts of the world. The virus has now infected 94,000 people and has killed more than 3,200, with most cases in China. The US has reported at least 130 cases, at least 80 countries beyond China have confirmed cases of the virus, and travel restrictions have been put in place in an attempt to contain the disease.

The Bay Area resident that Business Insider spoke to returned to the US on February 2, the same day that a new restriction was put into place advising all returning US citizens from mainland China to undergo a two-week self-quarantine. The resident said he may have been on the first flight whose passengers were told to do so. He would become one of the initial 5,400 Californians asked by officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to quarantine themselves in their homes for 14 days, the presumed maximum incubation period. If he had returned from China's Hubei province, where Wuhan is located, the quarantine would have been federally mandated.

There are now more than 8,000 Californians that were asked to self-quarantine in an attempt to monitor their health status and potentially contain the disease. The concept of voluntary self-quarantining - also known as self-isolating - is also being put into practice by others across the country and the world out of precaution, whether the subject is exhibiting symptoms or not. For example, a Brooklyn man who had returned from Japan with symptoms but was denied a CDC test for the virus quarantined himself in his one-bedroom apartment for 14 days, as Business Insider's Morgan McFall-Johnsen reported. Subjects remain indoors with limited ventures into the public, stock up on food, and work from home if they are able to.

The Bay Area resident completed his self-quarantine on February 17, but the virus still heavily concerns him, as does his experience in China. While he was there, he said things seemed to get worse every day as the virus took hold of the country and stoked fear in the public.

"I was almost afraid I couldn't come back," he said.




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