Man, girlfriend stuck in Florida after coronavirus outbreak in China

Benjamin Giaimo lives, works and studies in China, but he has no idea when he’ll be able to return

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A man’s life has been put on hold because of the coronavirus.

Benjamin Giaimo lives in China, but was forced to come back home to Florida after the COVID-19 outbreak overseas.

Giaimo is a Ph.D. student and works as a translator at a university in China, where he has lived for years. But with all the travel warnings from the country and from his university, he said he has no idea when he’ll be able to return.

“I cannot go back to China at all right now. And we are not allowed in our universities, because I’m a university student, they said you are not allowed back in China at all without our permission and if you decide on your own to come back without our permission from the university, you will be seriously punished. Those were their exact words," Giaimo told News4Jax Tuesday on Skype.

Giaimo and his girlfriend were in Vietnam on winter break when they first learned about COVID-19 in China.

Benjamin Giaimo and his girlfriend were in Vietnam when they first learned about COVID-19 in China. (Special to WJXT)

“About two and a half weeks later, after about 17-18 days, our plane tickets got canceled back to China and all flights back to China got canceled completely," he said.

Fortunately, while in Vietnam, Giaimo’s girlfriend obtained a U.S. visa so they could travel to Florida, where Giaimo is from. Since he can’t return to his university, Giaimo said he has to send daily health updates.

“I have to submit a form to my university in China every day with my temperature, with my situation and where I am," he said.

Giaimo spoke with News4Jax while he was in another city in Florida, but on Wednesday, he will be coming to Jacksonville, where his parents live. He said he is now considering getting a temporary job in Jacksonville, as he’s having to live without an income.

“I don’t have a job in China right now, so I have no income there and I cannot receive my scholarship because I’m not in China, so I’m going to have to get a job if I want to survive while here in America," he said. “We might be stuck for another month, another two months. The situation is getting better in China, so they say.”

Despite not knowing when he and his girlfriend will be able to return to China, Giaimo said he is staying positive about the future.

“They will say, ‘Wuhan jiāyóu, Wuhan jiāyóu,' which means let’s do this, Wuhan. Let’s beat the virus," Giaimo said. "That’s the big thing that’s going on in China. They’re just saying we got to fight it.”

Giaimo said he’s been in touch with some of his friends who are still in China, many of whom cannot leave their homes and whose businesses have been negatively impacted by the coronavirus. Giaimo said he’ll be grateful when he can go back, finish his studies and continue working.

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