An Ohio man who was attempting to return home from China amid a deadly outbreak of novel coronavirus claims he remains stranded in the city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak that killed at least 81 people and sickened thousands of others.
“Realizing you can’t go anywhere can unnerve the calm and rattle the nervous,” John McGory, 65, wrote in a recent post for American Speech Company titled, “An American at Coronavirus ground zero.”
The Columbus native has taught English at Jianghan University in Wuhan for the past six years but recently resigned from his post and was slated to return to the U.S. this week. But, he wrote, “I guess that will have to wait.”
In a detailed account of his experience living in Wuhan as news of the outbreak emerged, McGory wrote that the novel coronavirus “punched the city in the face with lightning speed and impact, Wuhan people went from planning holiday travel to lock down in three days.”
After confirming Wuhan had indeed been quarantined to prevent the spread of the illness, McGory said he first thought was to “get some food,” traveling to a nearby Walmart for supplies. Speaking to The Columbus Dispatch from China, McGory likened the scene at the store to those in America before a major storm hits in the U.S.
“The store, while crowded, remains calm,” he wrote, noting certain items were sold out.
“I’m an American, caught at the center of this chaos in a southern Chinese megacity that has gone from a comfortable, well-run city to the verge of being freaked out,” he continued. "I’m not afraid to say I’m worried. We live most of our lives managing risks the best we can but living in a virus-infected, Chinese city of 11 million frightened people creates a whole different environment for daily living.”
The 65-year-old added that the fear of illnesses has begun to take over his mind, noting that “All sorts of cataclysmic scenarios play out in your head, all silent and scary.”
He’s begun to worry over every cough and has questioned if his throat is sore (symptoms of the virus have been reported to include fever, cough and shortness of breath).
“Nobody knows the endgame of the coronavirus and how Wuhan will deal with it and neither do I,” he wrote. “Right now, panic is our principal response.”
McGory is one of an estimated 50 million people affected by lockdowns that have been imposed on at least 13 Chinese cities, including Wuhan. At least 100 Australian school children are also stranded in the city amid the outbreak, according to reports.
As the outbreak continues — at least five cases have been confirmed in the U.S. with additional cases being investigated, including one possible case in a Baylor University student in Texas — China’s health minister said over the weekend that he believes virus can spread during the incubation period, sparking fears that it can be more easily passed on than previously thought.
“Nobody knows the endgame of the coronavirus and how Wuhan will deal with it and neither do I. Right now, panic is our principal response.”
National Health Minister Ma Xiaowei made the comments at a press briefing on Sunday and said that information on the virus was limited, making many risks unclear. The incubation period for the novel coronavirus, identified by health officials as 2019-nCoV, can range from one to 14 days, during which it is infectious, he said. While the virus was first linked to a large seafood and animal market in Wuhan, officials have since determined that it’s transmissible between humans.
Ma said the country was entering a “crucial” stage in the response efforts as “it seems like the ability of the virus to spread is getting stronger.”
Many countries with citizens trapped inside Wuhan have been planning evacuations, including the U.S., which reportedly plans to charter a flight to evacuate personnel and others. Japan, which has 560 citizens currently in Hubei, also said chartered evacuation flights are being prepared to leave “as soon as possible.” France said any citizens who want to leave will be taken via direct flight back to the country and kept in quarantine for 14 days, while Sri Lanka, which has about 860 students throughout China, is working to bring them all back.
Australia is “exploring all opportunities” to help with evacuations, while Germany said it was considering evacuating citizens and Thailand said it was ready to evacuate its citizens but hadn’t yet received permission from Beijing.
John McGory did not immediately return Fox News' request for comment on Monday.
Fox News’ Alexandria Hein and The Associated Press contributed to this report.