Some Americans to leave China, many stay after U.S. advisory

BEIJING (AP) — Some Americans plan to leave China after the U.S. government advised about a spreading virus outbreak, but many others are staying.

The State Department issued a travel advisory Friday saying Americans in China “should consider departing.” That followed the evacuation earlier this week of about 200 Americans from Wuhan, the locked-down city at the center of the outbreak. A second flight is planned next week.

In addition to tourists, tens of thousands of Americans live and work in China in business and teaching. Some have been in the country for decades.

JAMES DICKEY

Dickey, a kindergarten teacher, said he is “really scared” and trying to arrange for his 8-year-old daughter and ex-wife to leave Wuhan for the United States.

He lives in Changsha, about 400 kilometers (250 miles) south of Wuhan.

“In 10 years living here in China, I’ve never seen anything like this, not even close,” he said. “The fact that our governments are taking such drastic and dire measures right now really tells me that the situation is probably worse than what we’ve been led to believe, or what the numbers would indicate.”

He spoke from a train as he returned from Beijing, where he had come to get his daughter an emergency passport so she and his ex-wife can get on an upcoming U.S. government-chartered evacuation flight from Wuhan.

He planned to stay in China with his Chinese girlfriend. “If I leave, she’s going to be all alone in a city that’s not her hometown, so if I left her right now that would be a really terrible thing to do,” he said. “I couldn’t do that to her.”

MANDY IACAMPO

Iacampo. who has lived in China for two years, said she has no plans to leave and is more worried about the flu.

“I’m honestly more concerned with traveling than with being here,” the 25-year-old kindergarten teacher said. “Looking at the numbers, especially compared to things like the flu that put me in danger, I’m not especially concerned.”

The Arkansas native said her school in Beijing has postponed reopening after the Lunar New Year holiday by a week to Feb. 10 and friends are less willing to go out.

“I’m wearing masks out and about,” she said. “But generally speaking my daily life hasn’t had to change.”

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China coronavirus outbreak spreads across regions
In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, Chinese President Xi Jinping talks by video with patients and medical workers at the Huoshenshan Hospital in Wuhan in central China's Hubei Province, Tuesday, March 10, 2020. China's president visited the center of the global virus outbreak Tuesday as Italy began a sweeping nationwide travel ban and people worldwide braced for the possibility of recession. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. (Xie Huanchi/Xinhua via AP)
A traveler wears a face mask as he sits in a waiting room at the Beijing West Railway Station in Beijing, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. A fourth person has died in an outbreak of a new coronavirus in China, authorities said Tuesday, as more places stepped up medical screening of travelers from the country as it enters its busiest travel period. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
A girl wearing a face mask sits among suitcases at Hong Kong International Airport in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. Face masks sold out and temperature checks at airports and train stations became the new norm as China strove Tuesday to control the outbreak of a new coronavirus that has reached four other countries and territories and threatens to spread further during the Lunar New Year travel rush. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
Travelers wearing face masks gather at Hong Kong International Airport in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. Face masks sold out and temperature checks at airports and train stations became the new norm as China strove Tuesday to control the outbreak of a new coronavirus that has reached four other countries and territories and threatens to spread further during the Lunar New Year travel rush. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
Staff in biohazard suits hold a metal stretcher by the in-patient department of Wuhan Medical Treatment Center, where some infected with a novel coronavirus are being treated, in Wuhan, China, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. Heightened precautions were being taken in China and elsewhere Tuesday as governments strove to control the outbreak of the coronavirus, which threatens to grow during the Lunar New Year travel rush. (AP Photo/Dake Kang)
Peatones con máscaras de protección en una zona comercial de Tokio, el jueves 16 de enero de 2020. (AP Foto/Eugene Hoshiko)
Health workers wear protective gear Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2003, in Ward E3 of the Alice Ho Miu Ling Nethersole Hospital in Hong Kong's New Territories, where 24 patients were quarantined after seven of its health workers developed flu-like symptoms, although none have tested positive for SARS. According to a hospital spokesperson five nurses and two health care assistants working in the hospital's Ward E3 developed symptoms such as coughs, sore throats and fevers on Friday. Hong Kong's health chief, Dr.Yeoh Eng-kiong, said that preliminary test results showed patients' samples did not contain coronavirus that causes SARS and researchers are trying to identify the cause of the illness. (AP Photo/Anat Givon)
WUHAN, CHINA - JANUARY 21 2020: Workers monitor screens for fever signs on passengers detected by infrared detectors at Hankou Railway Station in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. A new type of coronavirus has infected hundreds of people in the city.- PHOTOGRAPH BY Feature China / Barcroft Media (Photo credit should read Feature China / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
WUHAN, CHINA - JANUARY 21 2020: Passengers wearing protective masks walk inside Hankou Railway Station in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. A new type of coronavirus has infected hundreds of people in the city.- PHOTOGRAPH BY Feature China / Barcroft Media (Photo credit should read Feature China / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
WUHAN, CHINA - JANUARY 21 2020: Passengers wearing protective masks walk outside Hankou Railway Station in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. A new type of coronavirus has infected hundreds of people in the city.- PHOTOGRAPH BY Feature China / Barcroft Media (Photo credit should read Feature China / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
WUHAN, CHINA - JANUARY 21 2020: Passengers wearing protective masks walk inside Hankou Railway Station in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. A new type of coronavirus has infected hundreds of people in the city.- PHOTOGRAPH BY Feature China / Barcroft Media (Photo credit should read Feature China / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - JANUARY 21: Chinese travellers wear protective masks as they arrive to board trains at Beijing Railway station before the annual Spring Festival on January 21, 2020 in Beijing, China. The number of cases of a deadly new coronavirus rose to nearly 300 in mainland China Tuesday as health officials stepped up efforts to contain the spread of the pneumonia-like disease which medicals experts confirmed can be passed from human to human. The number of those who have died from the virus in China climbed to six on Tuesday and cases have been reported in other parts of Asia including in Thailand, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
YICHANG, CHINA - JANUARY 21 2020: Travelers wearing protective masks walk outside a railway station in Yichang in central China's Hubei province Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. China has stepped up the measures to control the spread of the new coronavirus that has infected hundreds of people in China.- PHOTOGRAPH BY Feature China / Barcroft Media (Photo credit should read Feature China / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - JANUARY 21: A Chinese girl wears a protective mask as her mother pushes her on a suitcase to board a train at Beijing Railway station before the annual Spring Festival on January 21, 2020 in Beijing, China. The number of cases of a deadly new coronavirus rose to nearly 300 in mainland China Tuesday as health officials stepped up efforts to contain the spread of the pneumonia-like disease which medicals experts confirmed can be passed from human to human. The number of those who have died from the virus in China climbed to six on Tuesday and cases have been reported in other parts of Asia including in Thailand, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
In this March 23, 2020 photo released by Xinhua News Agency, workers disinfect a subway train in preparation for the restoration of public transport in Wuhan, in central China's Hubei province. China's health ministry says Wuhan has now gone several consecutive days without a new infection, showing the effectiveness of draconian travel restrictions that are slowly being relaxed around the country. (Xiao Yijiu/Xinhua via AP)
In this March 18, 2020 photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, people applaud as departing medical workers enter Wuhan Tianhe International Airport in Wuhan in central China's Hubei Province. Last month, Wuhan was overwhelmed with thousands of new cases of coronavirus each day. But in a dramatic development that underscores just how much the outbreak has pivoted toward Europe and the United States, Chinese authorities said Thursday that the city and its surrounding province had no new cases to report. The virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, for most people, but severe illness is more likely in the elderly and people with existing health problems. (Ke Hao/Xinhua via AP)
En esta fotografía del domingo 8 de marzo de 2020, difundida por la Agencia de Noticias Xinhua, trabajadores con trajes protectores limpian un hospital que se improvisó en un escenario deportivo después de que fuera cerrado oficialmente en Wuhan, provincia de Hubei, en el centro de China. (Xiao Yijiu/Xinhua vía AP)
Office workers wearing mask against coronavirus move past lantern decorations in a mall and office building in Beijing on Thursday, March 19, 2020. China has only just begun loosening draconian travel restrictions within the country, but has stepped-up 14-day quarantine regulations on those arriving in Beijing, Shanghai and elsewhere from overseas, amid expectations of a new influx of students and others returning home. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
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MIKE WESTER

Wester, a businessman who has lived in China for 19 years, is staying in Beijing and “self-quarantining myself,” which feels safer than facing airports crowded with strangers.

“I can control my own behavior,” he said. “I can’t vouch for everyone who is standing in all those lines that they are not being irresponsible.”

Wester is chief executive of True Run Media, an advertising company that produces magazines, websites and events in Beijing and Shanghai.

He and his wife are staying home with their 12-year-old daughter. Her school is closed but she is keeping busy writing blog entries for his company, including a series on meals that can be made with three basic ingredients.

Wester, who lived in China during the 2002-03 SARS outbreak, has organized a group for Americans on China's popular WeChat messaging service to try to dispel false information and calm fears.

“I’ve been reading about this and trying to calm people down,” he said. “It feels like a full-time job.”

LISSA LAYMAN

Layman said she and her husband have no plans to leave.

The couple are showing her sister, who is visiting from the United States, around Beijing. They bicycled in the city and went to Tiananmen Square and brew pubs.

“We haven’t been quarantining ourselves, but we are taking precautions like washing our hands and wearing masks,” said Layman, who has been a teacher in Beijing since mid-2018.

JACK RAYMOND

Raymond, from Portland, Oregon, is wavering.

“I’m trying to not spread or get into a state of panic,” said Raymond, 28. “But I don't know if the severity is such that I should either leave or stay put and hunker down in my apartment.”

Raymond, who has lived in Beijing for four years and teaches drama at a school, is reluctant to give up friends and work connections. He said he has stayed indoors for a week, going out only to buy food.

“I have family back in the States and they’re all urging me to leave China now,” said Raymond. “I almost bought a plane ticket yesterday. So I really am teetering on the edge.”

KELLY FLANAGAN

Flanagan, a school counselor in China since 2011, is in the United States and has no plans to return soon.

Almost all the passengers were wearing masks when she flew out of Shanghai on Jan. 25 and, when one passenger sneezed, “everyone gave her death-stares,” she said.

Flanagan, 36, is working remotely with her students to prepare for English proficiency exams, though they have been canceled because of the outbreak.

“This is probably going to be a while,” she said.

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