New Castle graduate quarantined in China subhead: Sean Murphy says he expects to get 'all clear' soon

Sean Murphy, 24 of New Castle, wears one of the three washable masks he has to protect himself from the coronavirus outbreak in China. Murphy has lived in China since August teaching English to elementary school students. 

A New Castle Area High School graduate working in China has been quarantined inside his apartment for the past three weeks due to the COVID-19 outbreak that has hit that nation and is now spreading around the world.

"It's been interesting," Sean Murphy said. "It's intriguing."

Murphy, who is a graduate of Notre Dame College, has lived in Hangzhou, the capital of the Zhejiang Province, since August when he arrived there to teach English as a second language to elementary students through a teacher placement service called Echo English. When the province was shut down on Feb. 4, however, life in the city came to a halt.

He even spent his 24th birthday on Feb. 9 unable to leave his apartment.

The Chinese government, Murphy said, was "very effective" in letting the public know what precautions they were required to take.

Because of the school closures, Murphy had to begin teaching his students online. Schools won't open up again until the Ministry of Education of the People's Republic of China decides it's safe for students to return, which Murphy suspects will be March 1.

Murphy spends his days chatting with friends online and playing video games when he isn't teaching.

Even though he could go outside every couple of days early on, Murphy said he has been getting food and supplies delivered to his apartment from a delivery app similar to UberEats.

Hangzhou, which has a population of 9 million people, has about 150 confirmed cases of COVID-19, but there have been more than 30,000 cases in the entire country.

The city is 470 miles east of Wuhan, where the outbreak began late last year.

Murphy's mom, Anita, talks to him at least twice a day.

"(He's handling it) probably better than we are," she said. "He's handling it magnificently. Better than I could ever."

Anita said Murphy left his apartment for the first time in three weeks on Sunday.

He had to complete a survey to receive his "green dot card," which gives him permission from the government to go outside. He also had to get permission from his apartment building to leave. Murphy said his employer encouraged him to apply for the card to attend meetings at company headquarters about improving online teaching.

Murphy thinks his mom worries about him the most.

Anita has contacted Sen. Pat Toomey's office in Washington, D.C., to get the steps to take just in case her son needs to be evacuated from China.

"He's still my baby," she said.

When he was in college, Murphy wanted to be an attorney. When he entered his junior year, he decided to focus on getting an English degree to travel abroad and to teach.

His contract with Echo expires later this year, and Murphy said he expects to come back and potentially spend a few years teaching in the U.S. before he considers teaching overseas again.

mbasileo@ncnewsonline.com