BREAKING: Belmont Resident With Coronavirus Flies To Bejing, Now Under Investigation By China

Photo: Beijing Capital International Airport (WikiCommons photo)

In a case that has many scratching their heads, a Belmont resident is under investigation by the Chinese government for flying with her family last week back to her homeland without informing the airline, Chinese officials that she had recently tested positive for the highly contagious coronavirus by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Jie Li, who lived with her husband and their son on Sharpe Road since 2015, landed in Bejing from Los Angeles on March 13, according to the Xinhua News Agency, the official media outlet of the Chinese government.

During the flight, Li, who is reportedly a Chinese citizen, began showing flu-like symptoms associated with the virus and was escorted to the rear of the plane for the remainder of the flight. Once on the ground, Li and her husband tested positive for the virus.

Since her arrival in China, Li has become a cause célèbre in the local news as she has been pilloried for allegedly “impeding the prevention of infectious disease” after her case was made public early in the week, according to an article in the Boston Globe.

Tensions between the US and China has been intensifying during the spread of the Coronavirus into a global pandemic with President Trump and many of his supports – a noted conservative attorney has filed a $20 trillion suit against the Chinese government – calling the novel virus the “Chinese” flu while the Bejing government notes there are no new cases in China as opposed to hundreds daily in the USA

Li was one of three Belmont residents who have tested positive by the state for the COVID-19.

Until this month, Li, who earned a Ph.D. in statistics at the University of Iowa and taught a decade ago at Virginia Tech University with her husband, was working as the associate director for biostatistician at Biogen for a little more than a year.

While an investigation determined that Li did not attend the Biogen-sponsored sales meeting at the Boston Marriott Long Wharf in late February which has become ground zero for the coronavirus in Massachusetts, she had been in contact with fellow employees who were there.

In a comment to the Boston Globe, the biotech firm said it was unaware Li would be traveling to her homeland. Li has been fired this week from her position.

Li also did not tell the Belmont Health Department of her travel plans after the town was notified by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health that she had tested positive for COVID-19 just days before, according to a press release from Wesley Chin, director of the Belmont Health Department, dated March 19.

In fact, Li had been quite unaccommodating with the town from the time earlier this month when Belmont Fire Department EMS crews responded to a call for a person experiencing flu-like symptoms.

After Li asked to be taken to a Boston-area hospital for testing, the EMS crew contacted Medical Control which advised them that Li could and should self-transport to the area hospital. When told of the decision. Li informed the EMS crew to leave and she would drive herself for care, according to the press release.

According to Chin, two days after the incident, the Health Department was notified by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health that Li tested positive for COVID-19. With that information in hand, Chin tried to contact Li and her family via phone and text messaging, as well as, by going out to the home and knocking on the door. In each attempt, Chin did not receive a response.

Chin continued his attempts to make contact including reaching out to the healthcare provider that conducted the testing. But the testing agency was also unable to reach Li.

Then last week, as Chin still tried to notify Li, a resident informed him press reports from China spoke of a traveler from the USA who had entered the country wit the virus. The resident believed that person was Li. Chin then called the MDPH of the new information on Li who contacted MassPort – the agency that runs Logan International Airport – who began a contact investigation of all personnel that may have come in contact with Li.

It is not known when or if Li and her family will return to the United States. Currently, there is a ban on travel from China.

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  1. mason says

    They had a young son to take care of. When they knew both of them could have the virus, they tried to take their son back to China where their parents could take care of their son when they were too sick to do so. Biogen fired her under Chinese pressure was unfair. I have children of my own, and I could understand their desperation. in this difficult time, all of us should try to show our love to each other.

    • Liz says

      I disagree. Can a family friend nearby not take care of the child? A trustworthy neighbor? An uninfected Biogen colleague? Surely someone she knows would have compassion for her situation. Instead, she took suppressants to hide her symptoms and exposed several people to the Coronavirus in order to enter China. She had options for care in the U.S. that would have allowed for limited exposure to other people and she chose a selfish route. Biogen fired her because she was giving them bad press even though they provided her with a test and they have insurance for her. We don’t hear about other people doing something like this. You don’t need to have kids to understand that families with infected members are going to have a difficult time working harmoniously, but desperation doesn’t mean taking illogical and risky action.

      She doesn’t have a job in the U.S. anymore and China is investigating her to press criminal charges. Her son is probably going to be bullied for this if the family ever returns. Her name is now all over the Internet for a bad reason and her reputation is tarnished. She’ll have passive income from the rental unit she owns in Waltham, so she’ll have money. But I do not think too many people or organizations will want to associate themselves with her because of her actions.

      I’m a believer that if you do something that affects others, think about if you would be proud of it if it were reported on the front page of your favorite newspaper. “Local woman who tested positive for Coronavirus goes back to China and exposes several other individuals so that her son can be taken care of by her parents” doesn’t sound great. Instead, the headline could have been “Local woman who tested positive for Coronavirus asking for help caring for her young son while she battles illness in a local hospital and drove herself to the hospital to prevent others from being infected” and would have garnered far more sympathy.

  2. Jake says

    I read this backwards and forwards a few times. As you may know, it has taken a long time after testing to know the results: 2 or more days.

    Chinese nationals have gotten immense bias historically and due to this pandemic particularly. They may also have felt the Chinese had better healthcare if they were sick, hard as that may be for an American to understand

    NOWHERE in this article did I see where they had been actually told in person they had this disease before leaving. They were probably told they should self-quarantine. I doubt anyone told them they HAD to.

    That said, if they (the testing agency or the Belmont Health Department) called and texted the person, they may have known of their diagnosis. .

    I think I read where they were arrested in China, if that makes everyone feel better.

    • TB says

      Jake-they got tested. Any adult with half a brain would understand that if there is a need to test then maybe they shouldn’t be traveling. Who cares if no one told they have (not proven) it. How about some common sense and giving a crap about others. They knew what they had, don’t be Silly.

  3. Scott Clement says

    Any person with a known virus that ignores it and goes out and exposes it should be charged. Much like an aids infected person going out and knowingly having sex to spread it.

  4. Sue says

    Police have FINALLY started cracking down on the families blatantly ignoring rules about playgrounds being closed. There were a ton of people at town field just a few days ago and at Butler school yesterday. We need to start enforcing these rules from the playgrounds to neighbors getting their house worked on to extreme cases like this irresponsible woman!

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