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Asheville native waits to return to work in China

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Asheville native Ellis Robinson is a teacher who lives and works less than 1,000 miles from Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

While world health officials track the numbers and spread of the coronavirus, a young teacher here in the mountains has kept an eye on the situation overseas.

Ellis Robinson came home to Asheville to visit his parents during school break. While back in China, people he knows face quarantine and an uncertain future.

There are now more than 64,000 cases of coronavirus worldwide. The virus has killed more than 1,300 people in China. And here in the U.S., more than a dozen people have been infected.

"I think that's the main problem for everyone around the world is just, like, we don't know," Robinson said.

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Online, social media and Skype are the only connections Robinson has had with students, fellow teachers and friends more than 8,000 miles away in a place called Guangzhou.

"It's just bad timing, really, isn't it," Robinson said.

Robinson lives and works less than 1,000 miles from Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.

And like any other place last month in China, there was one thing on the mind.

"This is happening during Chinese New Year, which is why I'm here, just taking the holiday," Robinson said. "Everyone is moving around China, so, when they shut down Wuhan, obviously, people were leaving and going everywhere and stuff."

Robinson's friends have shared photos of empty streets in Guangzhou. Some shops are open, but customers are wearing masks and being spot checked for fevers.

"Everyone's staying at home, so it's basically, like, incredibly boring. There's like nothing happening," Robinson said.

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The coronavirus is a health crisis affecting tens of thousands so far. And if there can possibly be envy found in an epidemic, Robinson knows it exists here in his mountain home.

"I think anyone would agree, anyone who's there would be like, 'No, you're fine. Like, I'd rather be in your shoes than if we were in opposite positions,'" Robinson said.

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