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Woman flees coronavirus from Hong Kong to Chesapeake family

By the time she left, Sinaí Manno said her university was constantly sanitizing its facilities and checking students for symptoms of the coronavirus.

CHESAPEAKE, Va. — As the coronavirus dominates headlines worldwide, Sinaí Manno just arrived in Hampton Roads from Hong Kong to escape the illness.

She'd lived there for three years, but knew she had to get out until the coronavirus calms down.

"It was a situation, very stressful," she said. "The environment was so heavy."

The Mexican national and PhD student is studying the biomedical sciences field at City University of Hong Kong. She lives with her husband, a Chesapeake native, overseas. He's currently in Sydney, Australia.

For now, she's staying with family in Chesapeake until it's safe to go back. It's unclear how long that will take.

By the time she left, she said the university was constantly sanitizing its facilities and checking students for symptoms of the coronavirus.

"Every time we entered the university, they checked it. Every time we leave, they check the temperature," she said, referring to her forehead.

The university informed students that there were two cases of the virus confirmed on campus. She tried to remain secluded as much as possible, she said.

Between concerns for her health and having no ethanol -- which is a key component of her lab experiments -- she knew coming to the U.S. was her best option. Ethanol is scarce and expensive because it's also a cleaning agent.

"Right now, the university canceled all classes, so everything is online," Manno said.

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Getting here was no easy task. She had to fight for a costly flight. And once she was headed to her connection in Taipei, Taiwan, she had to sign forms saying she had no symptoms of the virus for the last 14 days.

She wore a mask and gloves on the plane and is still being extra cautious at the Manno family home. 

For the foreseeable future, she'll be tuning in to online lectures on Hong Kong time. The next one is 3 a.m. Wednesday. She's also still paying for her empty university apartment.

"We are in very hard times," Manno said.

She described the social fabric of Hong Kong changing rapidly over the last several months, between political unrest and protest and now the coronavirus.

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