▶️ Bend Tai Chi student in China waits as virus closes city, school


When Bend resident Sherry Tran’s 18-year-old son Elijah was accepted to attend a prestigious academic and military martial arts school in China through Oregon Tai Chi Wushu late last year, he was hesitant.

Sherry encouraged her son to take the once in a lifetime opportunity, and in October Elijah left for Taizhou in Southern China for a school year abroad.

Today, two weeks after the winter break ended, the campus is deserted, the school is closed and the city where Elijah lives is on lockdown – over fears of coronavirus.

The city of Taizhou refuses to let any non-residents into the city limits.

At first, Sherry admits, she panicked.

“I was asking everyone, ‘What do you think?’ I was in contact with the Embassy, the Consulate,” she said. 

The Consulate told Sherry that, so far, it’s only a suggestion that American citizens leave the country.

Even when the coronavirus hit China’s mainland about a week before the school was released for winter break, those living in the city believed they were safe 10 and a half hours away from the first reports.

For the first week, Elijah, along with another foreigner family attending the school, were able to explore and enjoy their vacation, but Sherry says, that’s when things got serious.

“The other family panicked and ended up leaving because of the fear of lockdown,” said Sherry, “So that kind of left my son in a panic as well because he wasn’t sure what to do. He’s by himself.”

With cases of the virus reaching more than 60,000 worldwide, Elijah’s school remains closed until further notice.

As they continued talking to those who live in the area, as well as the American Embassy and Consulate, Elijah ultimately decided to stay.

“My mom gut was like, ‘No, I think it’s safer because he’s isolated in a school where no one’s there’,” said Sherry, “I just didn’t want to risk taking him to the airport and sharing whatever’s at the airport and finding someone to take him because it’s about a three hour drive. He’s a healthy kid, as long as he washes his hands, wears a mask, and if he does get sick he just has to be smart.”

So far, there’s no word on when the school will reopen, but they’re hoping for March or April.

In the meantime, Elijah is on alert and if the American Embassy calls for an emergency evacuation, they’ll pull him out of the country.


Join the Conversation

Top Local Stories