Safe in quarantine in the U.S., worried about family back home in China

By the time the Chinese government locked down the city of Wuhan on Jan. 23, Yu Lin Yin and his elderly parents were already self-quarantined in their condo, a precaution they took in the face of locals’ growing concerns over an unidentified virus that was quickly spreading throughout the city.

Yin, 48, had arrived in Wuhan on Jan. 20 in advance of the Chinese New Year, typically a joyous and celebratory time for people across the country. A long way from his home in Minneapolis, Yin’s trip quickly devolved as halted public transit, shuttered stores and empty streets transformed Wuhan into a ghost town. That’s when the fear and the confusion set in, he said.

On the first night of the quarantine in Wuhan, Yin said he “wept uncontrollably.”

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After the United States mandated evacuations from the city Jan. 25, Yin’s wife, who was still in Minnesota, began reaching out to government officials, including the offices of Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, to make sure Yin would make it onto a flight home. The flight will cost the family around $1,100, Ann Yin told NBC News.

“At one point, we were advised he might be [in Wuhan] until the end of March or even April,” she said. “It was just so scary and crazy for a while.”

Yu Lin Yin, wears a face mask while in quarantine at the Marine Corps Air Station in Miramar, California. The Minneapolis resident arrived on a flight from Wuhan, in San Diego, on Feb. 6.Courtesy Yu Lin Yin

Eventually, Yin secured a spot on a large, unmarked cargo plane carrying almost 200 people. He documented his journey on his YouTube and Twitter accounts with videos that show flight attendants in hazmat suits and passengers in face masks.

The journey took about 13 hours. Now quarantined at the Marine Corps Air Station in San Diego, Yin, who works in information technology, said he appreciates the work of U.S. government employees and volunteers, who have been accommodating. He says officials were calm and helpful, directing passengers about their travel arrangements and even creating a WeChat group for evacuees. He has become one of about 850 American citizens evacuated from Wuhan, China since Jan. 29.

Although Yin made it back, he’s concerned for his family, his parents and his cousins, who remain sealed off from the world in Wuhan.

Yin said his cousin in Changzhi, China, was diagnosed with the coronavirus, and is in stable condition.

An empty hallway on the military base where Yu Lin Yin is currently quarantined. Courtesy Yu Lin Yin

Yin is currently staying in a small apartment with a view of blue skies and palm trees. With good WiFi and three meals a day, he said he is “hopeful” for what comes next, as long as no one from the base is diagnosed, which would prolong his stay.He said he expects to be out of quarantine by Feb. 19, although the date could change.

“I just hope everything goes smoothly, so I can go back home as soon as possible,” he said.

On Wednesday, NBC News confirmed that four evacuees staying at the same base as Yin were transported to local hospitals after showing possible symptoms of the disease, now known as the novel coronavirus pneumonia (NCP). If any of the samples test positive, the group will need to stay in quarantine for another two weeks.

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