U.S. family in Wuhan, China, trying to return home


People wear face masks as they ride an escalator at the 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)

CHICAGO – Daisy Roth packed up suitcases for her and her two young children in January, and flew from Chicago to Shanghai, and from there to her parents’ home in Wuhan, China. The Roths planned to celebrate the holidays with family and, perhaps, enroll their 5-year-old daughter in an area school in order to help her pick up the language.

At the time, Daisy and her husband, Samuel, were aware of some reports of the coronavirus, but felt the danger did not rise to the level of canceling their planned visit.

“It seemed pretty small,” Samuel Roth told FOX21 Digital NOW. “We hoped it would blow over. Hindsight is always 20/20,” he said. He’d stayed behind on this particular trip to work and will now be separated from his wife and two daughters – for how long, he doesn’t know.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a Watch Level 1 Alert (be aware and practice usual precautions) on January 15.

That alert has since been escalated to a Warning Level 3 Alert (Avoid Nonessential Travel) due, the CDC says, “to an ongoing outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel (new) coronavirus that can be spread from person to person.”

The U.S. Embassy & Consulates in China asked U.S. travelers to take heed, issuing the following warning on its website:

“Exercise increased caution in China due to arbitrary enforcement of local laws and special restrictions on dual U.S.-Chinese citizens:

The Chinese government has asserted broad authority to prohibit U.S. citizens from leaving China by using “exit bans,” sometimes keeping U.S. citizens in China for years. The Chinese government uses exit bans coercively:

  • to compel U.S. citizens to participate in Chinese government investigations,
  • to lure individuals back to China from abroad, and
  • to aid Chinese authorities in resolving civil disputes in favor of Chinese parties.

In most cases, U.S. citizens only become aware of the exit ban when they attempt to depart China, and there is no method to find out how long the ban may continue. U.S. citizens under exit bans have been harassed and threatened.”

In response, the Department of State made arrangements to relocate personnel as well as private citizens; however, have so far only offered “a single flight leaving Wuhan Tianhe International Airport on January 28, 2020, and proceeding directly to San Francisco.” They provided an email address and urged U.S. citizens with valid passports to make contact.

Daisy Roth and her two children are safe, currently staying with her parents, but they were not able to make that flight home.

“I got information relayed from the State Department through Congressman [Glenn] Grothman’s office stating, ‘Thank you for contacting us to request assistance in departing China. Unfortunately, due to space limitations, we are unable to accommodate everyone who has requested assistance departing by air. The Department of State is working diligently with the government of China to identify alternative routes for U.S. citizens to depart Wuhan over land. We will provide you with any information on these possibilities as soon as it becomes available. In the meantime, please continue to monitor information provided by the government of China, the CDC and the Department of State for updates,'” Samuel Roth said on Monday afternoon.

“So, it seems,” Roth said, “they won’t be getting on the plane.”

For now, school is out of the question, too. Roth says they’re shut down, as is public transportation.

“I hope,” Samuel Roth said, “the alternative methods of getting people out of Wuhan by land are fast following.”

FOX21 DIGITAL NOW will continue to track the Roth family as they try to make their way back home.

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