SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, Calif. - At San Francisco International Airport Friday, a familiar scene played out with Doug and Christine Perez eagerly awaiting the arrival of their son, Douglas Perez Jr.
“We’re extremely happy to be able to see him in a few minutes,” said Christine Perez.
But their wait takes on a special meaning because their son is arriving from Wuhan, China, where the coronavirus originated earlier this year.
“We were concerned because we didn’t know the extent of the virus back in December and January and it was pretty bad,” said Doug Perez Sr.
Douglas Jr. had been in Wuhan for the past two years working as a teacher and exploring Asia.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began to surface, he found himself sheltering in place at home while his parents watched news reports of the spreading virus, spikes in infections and deaths, and the Chinese military was brought in to maintain civil order.
“We could see the worry on Douglas’s face. He didn’t want to worry us so he was trying to be very calm,” his mother recalls.
It’s been a long journey back from Wuhan for Douglas Jr and his girlfriend who underwent repeated COVID19 testing even before leaving China.
They had to travel to three other counties and were forced to quarantine in one of them before arriving in the United States.
“The flight was 25% full… it was very empty. On the plus side we could sleep on like three chairs so actually I got more sleep than I never have on an international flight,” said the younger Perez. “Some people were wearing full body suits like, you know almost like doctors… like full HAZMAT suit with the face masks, even goggles. It’s quite a sight to see.”
As for the current conditions in the city that is the epicenter of the worst pandemic in the world in more than one hundred years, he calls the improvements in Wuhan a “360% turnaround” and “quite remarkable.”
But the family is not yet whole with his Labrador, Chubby, which he lovingly called the “apocalypse dog” from his time spent in Wuhan during the outbreak, is scheduled to arrive on Sunday.
“I would like to say spend time with my family but I really can’t do that until I test negative again, but I really want to hit the hills with my dog,” said Perez Jr.