SEATAC, Wash. — A 9-year-old Bellevue boy was reunited with his father after spending two weeks in China amid the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak.
The U.S. government has put the strictest measures yet in place in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus. In response, major airlines have canceled flights, making it difficult for Americans trying to return home.
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is one of only 11 U.S. airports now receiving flights from China.
The boy, Daniel, was one of the passengers who arrived Monday evening and passed through the airport's coronavirus screening with his mother, Diana Neer.
"I think we are fine, but you never know," Diana said.
When their travel plans were in limbo, father David Neer was eager to get his son home.
“I’m getting my swim trunks ready because I’m getting ready to swim and go get him if I have to. I want to get my son home,” David said.
Daniel was born in the U.S. and his mother is from China. The boy and his mother flew to China on Jan. 20 to spend Lunar New Year with her family in Hangzhou, which is about 450 miles east of Wuhan, where the novel coronavirus is believed to have originated.
“This is the first time he’s ever spent Chinese New Year with his grandmother,” David said.
David said the boy’s mother considered canceling the trip when reports of coronavirus surfaced before their flight but decided the trip was a good opportunity for Daniel to spend the holiday with family.
"He did have fun with cousins, with grandma, but he was supposed to see the outdoors, and we can't," Diana explained.
Two weeks later, Daniel's mother wasn't sure how quickly she could get the two of them back home to the U.S. Neer said Hainan Airlines canceled their flight the day before it was set to take off, and there wasn’t another flight immediately scheduled.
“She was pretty freaked out because the airline was telling her that the next available flight was late April, that’s almost three months,” David said.
Daniel and his mother were finally able to book a flight through Taipei on Taiwan-based EVA Air. Pictures taken Monday morning show just how empty the international flight was.
Daniel arrived home Monday night. He will be self-quarantined for 14 days and monitored by a physician, as recommended by the CDC.
“I’ll keep him at home this week and then his mom will keep him at home next week – keep him out of school,” David said.