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Santa Cruz County Merchant Mariner Trapped in Shanghai's COVID Lockdown

Since March 1, China has reported around 90,000 new COVID infections largely driven by the subvariant BA.2

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New omicron outbreaks have forced China to extend its lockdown in Shanghai, one of the country's most critical areas.

Among those trapped in that lockdown is a merchant mariner from Santa Cruz County.

"About 10 days ago we had probably about 100 shipyard workers working with us and then they got the call around lunch time and everyone just left," said Giancarlo Thomae, a merchant mariner from Aptos stuck in the China coronavirus lockdown.

The crew quickly learned that a new COVID surge had triggered a stay-at-home order the massive city.

"There were settling torches just laying all over the place, unopened water bottles," Thomae said, adding it was like a scene from a movie.

Thomae and his team were supposed to be in shipyard for about 35 days, but it has not been 45 days and counting.

Since March 1, China has reported around 90,000 new COVID infections largely driven by the subvariant BA.2. It is the same variant that now accounts for most cases in the United States.

"Lockdowns might have been used for the original Wuhan variant, they might have worked for alpha and delta, but they are not going to work for omicron and they're certainly not going to work with BA.2, which is anywhere from 30 to 60% more tangible than omicron," UCSF infectious disease expert Dr. Peter Chin-Hong.

With spring break around the corner and BA.2 spreading, Chin-Hong said he suspects we will see a surge in the coming weeks, but it will not be as significant as China's spike in cases.

"Because China has done a great job until this point in protecting the population from natural infection, you see a situation where a lot of people are going to be vulnerable," Chin-Hong said. "Also, they've used different vaccines, which are not mRNA."

Chin-Hong said he believes our hospitals will be OK during the next surge, however, he believes we could see disruptions at work and school.

Back in Shanghai, Thomae is left to wait it out trapped by the precautions meant to prevent bigger disruptions.

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