NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — As positive cases of coronavirus begin to pop up in the United States from China, the virus has made a Connecticut connection. A Harwinton couple was evacuated this week from Wuhan, China amid coronavirus concerns. Now, they are being held in quarantine by the U.S. government.
Claude and Ilona Blouin from Harwinton, CT were recently in Wuhan, China visiting their son, who is a math teacher there. He’s lived in Wuhan for six years.
They say, from his high-rise apartment you could hear announcements over loud speakers warning people to take precautions because of the coronavirus. “Don’t go out unless you have to,” Claude explained.
“It was very scary,” Ilona said.
“Everything stopped,” Claude said. “The airports, no buses, trains, all public transportation, no cars were allowed out in the city — and then we started to worry.”
The American government was warning U.S. citizens to get out. The Blouins shelled out a thousand dollars each for seats on a cargo plane provided by the U.S. government to evacuate Americans. They got a seat on the flight, not even knowing where they were going in the U.S. until they climbed aboard.
It was a 13-hour flight the Blouins will never forget. The flight attendants were wearing hazmat suits.
“Surreal. Yeah, it was scary getting on the plane,” they both said in a telephone interview with News 8 Saturday.
The flight’s destination turned out to be Travis Air Force Base in northern California. When it landed in the U.S., there was applause.
“Very lucky,” Ilona said. “You felt like ‘God bless America.'”
They landed at the base on Wednesday. They are expected to be held there for about two weeks. They say everyone is friendly and making them feel comfortable in a hotel on the base.
However, they also say it feels strange.
“It’s a very nice room, but we feel like we’re in jail a little bit,” Ilona said. “U.S. Marshals are standing outside. It’s a little tough.”
They’ll be quarantined there until the government feels confident that they do not have the coronavirus and will not be able to pass it on to anyone outside the base. They’re getting medical checks twice-a-day to see if they have any symptoms of the virus. So far, they are not showing any signs of being sick.
But, their minds are still on the people in China — one in particular.
Their son decided to stay in Wuhan out of dedication to his students.
“It was heartbreaking to leave him,” Ilona said. “We are very worried. It’s bittersweet to come home.”
But, they feel better knowing he’s allowed to take precautions to limit possible exposure to the virus. He will be able to teach his courses online from his apartment. And his parents say none of his friends or co-workers have been infected.
When they get the medical OK from the folks at Travis Air Force Base, the Blouins say they can’t wait to return to their loved ones back here in Connecticut.
“As soon as we get out of here I’m sure we’ll be hugging our friends and family a little tighter and probably a little longer,” Claude said. “Just each and every one of them.”