When people in the U.S. and around the world read reports about the coronavirus, one couple in Homewood has been forced to change plans several times because of the virus.
Andy Bush, a 2004 graduate of Homewood-Flossmoor High School, is teaching English to middle schoolers in Beijing. His girlfriend Yang-Yang Li, works in guest services at a Hilton Hotel.
China typically shuts down for several weeks when the country celebrates the Chinese New Year. The Chinese are known for using the time to go to their home villages. Bush and Li decided to use their break time to travel to Chicago and spend time with his parents, Kathy Erickson and Bill Nason of Homewood.
When they left Beijing on Jan. 24 for their flight to O’Hare, there wasn’t any great alarm. Bush said the coronavirus was still considered “a Wuhan thing.” Li said she wore a mask to the airport, although Bush remembers “there was hardly anyone in the airport” because most of the population had left for the holiday.
They had a great time attending a cousin’s wedding and visiting with his father, Earl Bush, in Florida.
From Florida they took Amtrak to Washington, D.C. where Bush met up with H-F classmate Kevin Decker of Flossmoor whose band Rookies was performing as an opening band on Cheap Trick’s national tour.
Li said the Washington stop was a bonus. She was impressed by the city, the government buildings and museums.
After several days, they took Amtrak to New York City spending several days seeing the tourist sites. This stop, too, was another plus for the couple.
Bush said the return flight to China on Feb. 27 would have given him enough time to get back and plan for his next school session, but it would take them through South Korea. The scheduled two-hour layover there was changed to a government mandated 14-day quarantine for all passengers.
They cancelled those tickets. Bush said it was an expensive decision costing more than $700, but the couple would rather spend the 14 days in the U.S.
“We just feel lucky that we’re not under quarantine like our friends (in Beijing) are,” he said. “We’re just trying to make the best of every day.” A resident in the housing community where Li lives tested positive for the coronavirus, so even if they didn’t get quarantined at the Korean airport, she wouldn’t have been allowed back to her apartment, Bush said.
So now they are scheduled to return to Beijing on March 26 on China Air leaving from New York.
Bush has been in contact with colleagues and friends who report the virus is under control in Beijing, but Li was notified she’s laid off from her job. Only 20 of the hotel’s 300 guest rooms are occupied.
Bush said his school requires him to report in each day listing his location and his temperature. He says since he’s in the U.S., he lists his temperature in Farenheit rather than Celcius.
He’s anxious to get back to teaching, a job he says gives him joy. “You really can’t put a price on that.” He has his fingers crossed that the March 27 flight will get them back to China.