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Loyola professor researching in China under quarantine amid Coronavirus concern

For two weeks, she will be in a hotel room on the base and undergo mandatory health tests twice a day.

NEW ORLEANS — The Coronavirus is hitting home for a New Orleans university.  A Loyola law professor is under quarantine in California after being under mandatory evacuation from the area in China that is under lockdown. 

She is allowed to socialize with others under quarantine, as long as they stay six feet apart.

When Loyola Law professor Chunlin Leonhard left the uptown campus last September to do research in Beijing, she didn't think months later she would be quarantined on a U.S. Air Force Base in Northern California. It all started when she visited her brother and sister about 250 miles from Wuhan. 

"It has been a long time, at least 10 years since I last spent the Chinese New Year there. So it was something very special for me and so I flew out there with all the intentions of staying only for about a week," Leonhard said.

But soon the entire province was on lockdown.

"I wasn't scared of the virus to be honest. I was concerned, scared because of being locked up, and that was not a good feeling to know you're just sitting there and so helpless and stuck," Leonhard said.

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But when she was ordered to leave there was no transportation to get to Wuhan for a flight out. And she was not allowed to cross checkpoints. Professor Leonhard depended on the U.S. embassy and the grant program she was working under, The Fulbright Program, to get her to the plane.

"I have to say though, frankly at that time, I just wanted out. I really couldn't care. I really didn't care much about where I was going to land as long as I landed somewhere in the United States," she said by phone. 

For two weeks, she will be in a hotel room on the base and undergo mandatory health tests twice a day. So far she is well, but she says there are reports surfacing from people who are in Wuhan of under reporting of the number of cases, saying there are not enough hospital beds or tests kits to get the true number.

"There were people who died without being confirmed and they just, they don't really do an autopsy or anything, and so I think there is serious under reporting in China," she said.

And she is grateful for those who are helping her from home in New Orleans.

The professor says, when she is finished with the quarantine, she will most likely finish her research in another location through June, before she returns to New Orleans.

She writes to us:

"CDC is encouraging the evacuees to keep a social distance of 6 feet outside close family members to avoid infection.  Six feet distance is considered safe enough to avoid coronavirus infection because the virus is transmitted through droplets which can't travel that far. I don't have to stay alone in my room, but I am spending most of time reading articles online and working on my research in my room anyway.  I can also go out to the yard for a walk as long as I don't go outside the chain link fence which surrounds the hotel property.    I spend a lot of time on emails, Wechat, Skype, What'sApp and text messaging.

Statement from Loyola University New Orleans President Tania Tetlow:

Dear Loyola community,

As some of you may have heard by now, Leon Sarpy Distinguished Professor of Law Chunlin Leonhard, who has been on sabbatical in China since June for her Fulbright year, is among the Americans evacuated this week to the U.S. and is now in quarantine at Travis Air Force base in Fairfield, California. The Department of Health and Human Services implemented this mandatory quarantine to ensure the safety and wellness of all Americans returning from China and limit the spread of coronavirus. 

Law school faculty and staff have been in constant contact with Professor Leonhard as she waits to be cleared for travel. We are all grateful for the love and support of our close-knit community. And we are especially proud of Professor Leonhard, who remains cheerful and continues her scholarship and research of ancient Chinese commercial law, even while in quarantine.

At the moment, Americans are in far more danger from the common flu than from the coronavirus. The CDC makes regular updates here. Here are some simple tips to remain healthy and well.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available
  • Avoid close contact with sick people
  • Cover your mouth and nose with the inside of your elbow when you cough or sneeze. This helps to contain your germs without contaminating your hands Use a tissue over your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough and dispose of dirty tissues immediately
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth since germs spread this way.
  • Do not share drinks or eating utensils with anyone.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces that may be contaminated with germs like the flu, such as doorknobs, keyboards, and phones
  • Exercise daily
  • Get an adequate amount of sleep/rest
  • Eat a well-balanced diet and drink plenty of fluids

We are sending our well wishes for continued patience and strength to Professor Leonhard and others in quarantine. We pray for the safety and healing of all those sick and suffering, especially in China.

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