DALLAS, Texas — Protective masks were easily noticed inside DFW International Airport Friday as flights from China touched down, but support for a Forney family coming back from the country with a new son was just as noticeable.
China is dealing with a dangerous new strain of the coronavirus that has claimed the lives of 41 people as of Friday night. Per Chinese officials, 1,072 people have been infected with the pneumonia-like illness.
For Eric and Kyla Paschall, it's all unexpected. The outbreak began as they were spending two weeks in the country, arranging the adoption of a 2-year-old boy named Samuel.
The young boy is from a small province outside of Beijing.
"We felt called by God to do this," Eric Paschall said. The Paschalls are already raising a 5-year-old girl from China. They also have three of their own children.
After picking Samuel up, the couple traveled to an adoption center outside of Hong Kong to arrange for their new son to come home.
That's around the time, they said, when the country started seeing the outbreak get serious.
"Coming into Hong Kong, they checked our temperature," Paschall said. "We saw more masks than usual, at airports and train stations," Kyla Paschall added.
A number of family and friends greeted the Paschalls as they walked through the international arrival area at the airport. Tears and hugs were shared as everyone met the newest member of the family.
Also walking through those doors was Leroy Galvan and his wife Betty Carrillo.
The two traveled to Hong Kong and then Thailand for vacation.
When they first arrived, the virus hadn't hit major headlines yet. By the time they left? Officials at the airport were checking their itinerary to see if they had been anywhere near Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak.
"Landing in Hong Kong, they sprayed the inside of the airplane, and I had never seen that before in my life," Carrillo said.
Both were still wearing their protective masks while talking with WFAA.
"We were wearing the masks continuously because everyone else had them on," Galvan said. "I'm going to take mine off at home just to be sure," Carrillo added.
By Friday, American Airlines, Delta, and United had all announced that they would be offering refunds or waivers for flights booked to major destinations inside China.
For Beijing and Shanghai, travelers who bought tickets through Jan. 31 can change or postpone their trip without the usual fees.
Delta on Friday issued a waiver covering Shanghai and Beijing. If you have a flight to or from those cities through Jan. 31, you can change flights to as late as February without the usual fees.
Passengers who cancel trips are eligible for a voucher in the amount of their ticket, though a change fee will apply.
A waiver from United is covering travelers with tickets through March 29 and refunds are also being given out.
American also announced it would provide crew members flying in and out of China with masks and hand sanitizer after the Association of Professional Flight Attendants asked the company for better safeguards.
As for the Paschalls, a 14-hour flight deserves a relaxing weekend. While health officials are hoping the journey of this new coronavirus ends, the Paschalls newest journey is just beginning.
"We're just ready to get back to Texas," Eric Paschall said.