MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
The first group of individuals quarantined after evacuation from Wuhan, the center of the coronavirus outbreak, are beginning to settle back into normal routines. NPR's Patti Neighmond spoke with one young man who lives in a suburb of Pittsburgh.
PATTI NEIGHMOND, BYLINE: Twenty-four-year-old Daniel Wethli is a Fulbright scholar, a history buff who majored in philosophy, and was in Wuhan studying the 1911 Chinese revolution.
DANIEL WETHLI: I've been all over China, but I really like Wuhan a lot. The historical museums in Wuhan are beautiful. Like, the 1911 Revolution Museum is gorgeous and massive.
NEIGHMOND: He was only there about a month when the high-energy, friendly city was locked down.
WETHLI: It was just eerily silent. You could hear the wind. There's no horns beeping. No stores were open. It was just very strange to see a city built for that many people completely silent.
NEIGHMOND: After five days, Wethli was evacuated with nearly 200 other Americans. He spent two weeks in quarantine at March Air Reserve Base in Southern California. It was comfortable, a bonding experience with others that he appreciated. But still, he was eager to get home. And once there, he was happily embraced by family and good friends. But it's been something of a reality check because some other people are clearly nervous to be around him.
WETHLI: I went to the gym. And walking into the gym, there was an old friend of mine from high school. His dad saw me. And I went to shake his hand to say hello. And then he said, you know, with the coronavirus going around, I don't want to shake hands with anybody.
NEIGHMOND: The virus is thought to spread mostly through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Wethli is not infected, and over 14 days in quarantine, he was checked two times a day for symptoms of disease.
WETHLI: It kind of surprised me that people are still fearful that this might start catching over here.
NEIGHMOND: When he first got home, he was interviewed by local TV news. Later, when he checked comments on the station's Facebook page, he was shocked.
WETHLI: One of the comments was, get that clown out of here. You know, they wanted me to leave the area. There was a GIF of a movie character, like, shaking his head. And then there was one other person that had said something about - that I shouldn't be around, that I should leave.
NEIGHMOND: A reaction he didn't anticipate.
WETHLI: People, especially behind screens, can be mean. I mean, I guess I kind of expected that. But it's eye-opening to say the least.
NEIGHMOND: So too was dinner out with friends, when one asked repeatedly if Wethli could make him sick.
WETHLI: You know, there's no way that you can get me sick, right? Are you sure that you - that you're OK and there's no way I'm going to end up sick? He asked me a lot of times - many, many times. It didn't matter how many times I repeated the kind of facts about how many people have it here and that I've been watched extensively, you know, checked twice a day for two weeks in quarantine. He was still pretty worried.
NEIGHMOND: One especially important person who isn't worried, who's aware of the abundance of caution exercised by the CDC's is 14-day quarantine, is Hannah Winters (ph), Wethli's girlfriend.
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WETHLI: We wanted to order one of each, so two - so one pumpkin and one...
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: OK.
WETHLI: Yeah. Thank you.
NEIGHMOND: This week, they celebrated their three-year anniversary with dinner at a Thai restaurant and dessert at a gourmet cookie cafe.
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WETHLI: A red velvet and a snickerdoodle.
HANNAH WINTERS: Can I also have a snickerdoodle?
NEIGHMOND: For now, Wethli plans to travel around the U.S. and possibly apply for a job with the foreign service. And he does plan someday to return to Wuhan.
Patti Neighmond, NPR News.
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