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Travelers describe experiences returning to Tri-State from China

Posted at 6:01 PM, Jan 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-29 19:24:44-05

As two potential cases of coronavirus are being examined in Butler County and more than 100 people have died from the illness in China, traveling from China to the U.S. has been a different experience recently.

Holly Allen and her family flew into Dayton at 2:00 a.m. Wednesday, on their way back to Dayton from China.

"We had hand sanitizer, we had several masks with us," she said. "We actually had someone who was coughing on one of the planes, and a few people around us did take masks out and put them on just to be careful."

But she said the most striking thing she noticed was the contrast of how seriously airport officials were taking things in China to how calm everyone was when they landed in Seattle.

She and her family have been living in Suzhou, China, for the last four months. They decided to return to the U.S. Monday, as the coronavirus shut down many Chinese cities.

"I think, for me, the concern was more about will we experience a shortage of food, will we have a hard time getting supplies," said Allen.

On the way to the airport in China, the family was stopped at a health checkpoint. She said their temperature was taken at the checkpoint, and again at the airport, which is normal Chinese protocol.

"We did get stopped at one of those health check points, so it’s essentially kind of where you would have a toll booth situation, so all of the cars that were pulling up they had a health professional stationed," said Allen. "They had on full protective gear and the masks and the suits."

But when the family landed in Seattle, Allen said, they weren't treated to any extra security measures, despite having landed from China.

"I think what was more shocking for me, was coming into America they didn’t take our temperature," said Allen. "They just asked if we’ve been to Wuhan."

Airport officials in Dayton confirmed that no extra steps are being taken in that airport, nor are they at CVG. The airports said they are following the lead of state and local health departments, and coordinating their handling of travelers from there.

“We’re aware of the reports and we’ve been monitoring closely," said Mindy Kershner, CVG spokesperson. "In coordination with the Northern Kentucky health department because we follow their lead on any additional precautions that we wold take.”

Right now, health officials have said they are routing travelers based on the CDC's alert level, and encouraging people to avoid non-essential travel to China.

“We do have five ports of entry," said Amy Acton, with the Ohio Health Department. "The CDC is on a level 3 travel alert and so they’re routing through those airports."

Officials also say not to panic, because there are still no confirmed cases of coronavirus anywhere in the state of Ohio. This is a sentiment echoed by Allen as well.

“It’s just important to keep in mind that China is a big country, so we’re seeing video coming out of Wuhan… but the whole country isn’t like that at this point," she said. "They are taking precautions. And I think here in the states, there is no need to panic."