Sitting in his apartment in the Chinese city of Nanchang, Galloway native Samuel Kappes says he never thought his time in the country would be cut short by a global health emergency.
“I would never have guessed that this trip would have ended this way,” Kappes says.
The Ohioan has been teaching in the Jiangxi provincial capital on a one-year contract, now plans to terminate that deal early and head home as soon as this weekend at the urging of the U.S. State Department over concerns about the quickly-spreading novel coronavirus.
“It’s very sad,” Kappes says, “because I won’t get to say goodbye to any of my students, any of the Chinese teachers, any of my foreign colleagues. Anybody.”
Kappes has been holed up in his apartment for several days. He’s allowed to leave for an hour or two every other day, and faces questioning and temperature checks every time he returns. Because he’s a foreigner, he says he faces additional scrutiny from health officials.
On top of that, Kappes has asthma and recently saw someone in a neighboring apartment building get diagnosed with coronavirus, which attacks the lungs.
“It wasn’t (scary) at first, but it’s getting worse,” Kappes says. “More and more cases are appearing every single day. It’s starting to make me a little more nervous every day.”
NPR reports China's government on Tuesday fired two senior health officials in Hubei province, which sits next to Jiangxi province and is the epicenter of the coronavirus epidemic, placing Beijing in direct control of efforts there to contain its spread.
The move came on the same day the country reported 108 new deaths from the virus, the highest single-day number to date, representing about 10% of all fatalities since the outbreak began.
As of Tuesday, there were 42,638 confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV, as the virus is officially known, with 1,017 deaths in China, including Hong Kong.
Kappes thinks the Chinese government is doing all that it can.
“This is something that is very, very tough to contain,” Kappes says. “They’re working around the clock. I met a friend who is a doctor and she’s working almost 16-17 hours a day right now.”