Among the 11 million people under lockdown in the Chinese city of Wuhan — the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak — is Kristin Xiao, who attends Veritas Collegiate Academy in Springfield, Virginia.
Kristin, who traveled to China to be with her family to celebrate the Lunar New Year holidays, which began January 25, said she is trying to make the most of a difficult situation. She is joining her classmates, using real-time online video chats, from 9 p.m. to midnight local time.
"This incident in Wuhan has given me a lot of study pressure. I'm already in 11th grade. So my time is very tense," Kristin told VOA through online chatting.
As for the lockdown, she said only one family member is allowed to leave the residence three times a week. Communities in the neighborhood also organized group purchasing for necessities.
She expressed hope over the news that the new number of coronavirus infections is declining in China. But when asked how much longer she can stand the lockdown, Kristin replied, "Maybe one month."
With Kristin confined to her home in China, Veritas Collegiate Academy reached out to help her with classes.
"As a school, we were looking for an opportunity to be able to facilitate learning while she's in China. We wanted her to be part of our school," said Sean Elgut, superintendent of the academy. "So we kind of brainstormed and developed a system using a piece of hardware that's called Swivl. It allows the student to be live in the classroom. We use the WeChat app, which is very popular in China."
Medical aid to Wuhan
While attending classes online earlier this month, Kristin sent a video message to her friends and teachers, asking for medical aid for hospitals in Wuhan.
In just a week, the school was able to raise $30,000, and is working with an international aid agency, Hungarian Baptist Aid, to send aid to the hard-hit city at the center of the outbreak.
Dr. Bela Szilagyi, vice president of aid group, told VOA the agency is procuring N-95 respiratory masks and contactless thermometers from Europe. The medical supplies will be transported from Hungary to Wuhan by air within the next 10 days, the group said.
Wuhan Central Hospital and the Hubei Children's Medical Center will receive the aid.
Veritas Collegiate Academy students are awaiting Kristin's return to school, once the coronavirus lockdown is lifted.
"It's really hard for me because seeing someone that I know well going through the coronavirus situation and it becomes surreal to you very quickly," said Kristin's friend, Asilmwe Kamuntu.
Another student, Faith Kim, expressed concern about her friend and about the people of Wuhan.
"I want to put out my heart to them because I don't know what they're going through. I don't know their fears. And from what I can see in China right now is very scary. People aren't allowed to leave their homes and it's something that we don't experience in America," she said.
Others say having a classmate directly affected by the coronavirus is shocking.
"Now that we have a classmate who's stuck in China, it really does hit home," Joandry Santos said. "That this isn't just something affecting one part of the world."