EXCLUSIVE: Bay Area couple describes 'strange trip' to Wuhan before COVID-19 officially reported

SAN CARLOS, Calif. (KGO) -- When did the Chinese government really know about the novel coronavirus?

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It's a question that's been raised many times before.

In an exclusive interview with ABC7 News, a Bay Area couple describes their trip to Wuhan, China two months before the virus was first reported to the World Health Organization (WHO).

"The whole thing was just a little off... it didn't quite make sense at the time," said Charlie and Margaret Getz, recalling their brief visit to Wuhan in early November.

It was just the beginning of their seven-day voyage along the famous Yangtze River.

"We arrived late afternoon, and they told us there was going to be a change," Getz said.

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Their relaxed overnight stay turned into a brief three-hour visit. Within minutes of getting off the plane, the two were rushed to a Wuhan history museum.

"We were the only ones at the museum, no local folks around," he said. "Then, they had a brief concert for us."

The itinerary suddenly changed and the Wuhan city tour was canceled.

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"We were told we immediately have to leave that night, not the next day," said Getz.

There was no warning and no explanation.

"My wife Margaret said, 'Wait a second, we're supposed to look at these historic districts. What's going on here?' Getz said, pointing out the brochure they showed the tour guide. "They said, 'No, no, no.' Then, they said, 'Oh there's a lot of traffic on the river.'"

But, Getz remembers seeing very little traffic.

"It's possible there was traffic, but we sure didn't see anything," he said. "We just zipped right along...it all seemed very weird."

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Is it a coincidence this only happened in Wuhan? Not any other city on their trip?

Maybe. Maybe not.

The Chinese government first reported the virus to WHO on Dec. 31. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was notified on Jan. 3. More than two months after the Getz' visit.

"It's certainly possible they knew something about what was going on," said U.C. Berkeley scientist Lee Riley, who studies infectious diseases.

"What does this timeline tell you?" ABC7's Stephanie Sierra asked.

"The fact that they weren't allowed to go into the market...it sounds like something was already going on in early November," said Riley. "It's possible."

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