Some American citizens in Wuhan to escape coronavirus on flight, others will stick it out in city

There are around 1,000 Americans in the city of Wuhan, China — the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak — and while a few hundred are expected on Tuesday to board an evacuation flight sent by the State Department, many more remain in the quarantined city of 11 million as they try to avoid infection.

The Wall Street Journal caught up with a few of these Americans — ones who have seats on the flight and ones who don’t. The charter jet is scheduled to take around 230 people from the closed Wuhan airport, mainly U.S. diplomats and their families but also a small number of private citizens. The plane will take them to Southern California, but passengers will also go through a health screening during a refueling stop in Anchorage, Alaska.

Two of the Americans on the plane are Priscilla Dickie and her young daughter, but Dickie told the Journal that she wasn’t sure how she would get to the airport in a shut down city. She said she only saw one car on the road on Sunday.

“I have secured a seat, but the problem is transportation,” she said.

Benjamin Wilson, who’s from Louisiana, is staying in the city with his family because the plane won’t take his wife, who was born in Wuhan and is a Chinese national.

“I would consider sending my daughter, if that were an option,” he said. “But I wouldn’t leave my wife. But if my wife and daughter could travel together, then absolutely yes.”

Complicating the outbreak was the timing of the Lunar New Year, which happened on Saturday and brought many into the city to celebrate. To reduce mass gatherings, China has expanded the holiday by several days, but that doesn’t do much to help those who traveled overseas and were blindsided by the epidemic.

“When I went to sleep at 10 p.m., everything was normal,” said an American who came from San Jose on Wednesday night. “When I woke up at 5 a.m., the city was in shutdown mode.”

The CDC is currently encouraging U.S. citizens to avoid all nonessential travel to China, where officials are struggling to contain the virus that has killed over 100 already. There were five confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S. as of Sunday, as the CDC continues to investigate potential new cases.