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Maple Valley man describes being stranded at in-laws’ in Wuhan since January

This Feb. 3 photo shows Wuhan's empty streets during the citywide quarantine. (Photo by Getty Images)

When American expat Andrew Adams, who is from Maple Valley, went out with his wife in Wuhan to celebrate the Chinese New Year in January, he never expected it would be weeks before he would return to his home.

But when the government suddenly declared a citywide quarantine, Adams and his wife were trapped across the city from their home.

“They just locked down everybody … It’s like something you see in the movies that you can’t really believe, like, ‘This is my life — this is what I’m waking up to,” he told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson.

An American in Wuhan

After graduating from his university in 2013, Adams decided to spend a year teaching English in China. He soon found himself enchanted with the country, its culture, and one very special Chinese woman. In the years since, Adams got married and has built a career teaching English in Wuhan.

“I fell in love with China … I can’t see myself leaving China,” he said.

Adams said that when he and his wife first began hearing about the outbreak of a new virus in their city, Wuhan residents were told it was nothing to worry about. The couple had been monitoring their temperatures for weeks before the quarantine, and to this day have not shown any signs of the illness.

Then, however, “more people started getting sick, and we just started to see the panic level hit the roof,” he said.

First, Adams said, the government allowed them to only leave their homes every few days.

But then, right before Lunar New Year, the city went into full lockdown — right as Adams and his wife were out celebrating.

Life under lockdown

Because Lunar New Year is a time when Chinese people often gather with family members, the couple had gone out near Adam’s in-laws’ home. When the quarantine was announced, he and his wife asked a friend to drive them to the home, as all transit, taxis, and ride shares had been shut down.

“We almost got stranded,” he said.

For some people, spending six weeks cooped up with their in-laws might sound like a worse fate than contracting a dangerous virus — but Adams said that he gets along very well with his wife’s family.

“I’m very blessed to be there — my wife’s family, I have a very good relationship with them,” he said.

He has passed the time improving his Chinese, playing games, and watching TV.

Adams’ mother-in-law is employed at a grocery store nearby. She continues to work, going to the store by bicycle.

“People like that are the real heroes — putting their lives on the line, risking their lives to make sure people can get food,” Adams said.

While he appreciates the government’s swift action to contain the virus, he believes that it could have been stopped much sooner — and that many more lives could have been saved — if the government had been more transparent.

“In the beginning, they did a bad job just telling people what was going on … in the end, how they stopped the virus in their tracks is commendable. They went to extreme measures to make sure people didn’t get sick,” Adams said. “But they were covering their tail, I feel like.”

Words of wisdom for the PNW

With 10 coronavirus deaths in Washington, Adams hopes that the Puget Sound will take heed from China’s experience.

“I just hope people are cautious, I hope people listen to what is going on in the media — just pay attention,” he advised. “I am thankful for my wife — she saw this coming. Right now, you guys are kind of seeing this coming in the Pacific Northwest.”

While the lockdown has helped to slow the spread of coronavirus in Wuhan and the rest of China, Adams does not see such drastic measures working in America because “we value our rights a little bit too much to be quarantined.” He worries that Washingtonians will dismiss coronavirus as another flu and not take the proper precautions.

“I think it could be a massive problem … In China, it happened the exact same way — 15 people, then 20 people, 100 people, 1,000 people, 19,000 people … If it’s not monitored, it can be devastating,” he said. “And who knows how many people actually have the virus?”

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from 12-3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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