It was 10 days after returning from Las Vegas, where she and her husband rented a car and drove out to Red Rock Canyon and then to Death Valley, that Ruixing “Sing” Liu, 60, says she developed a cough and a fever.
A table games dealer at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City since it first opened on July, 2, 2003, Liu had also traveled to Singapore earlier in February, where a planned cruise was canceled amid coronavirus fears.
She had been back at work at Borgata since March 1.
“After about two weeks of work, I started coughing and [ran a] fever,” Liu said Sunday. “I never have fever.”
Her voice still showing the strain of weeks of being on a ventilator, Liu spoke Sunday in a whispered voice by phone from her home in Mays Landing. She said she sought medical care at the emergency room “right away.”
A native of China, where she was a pediatrician, Liu was one of three dealers reported by the casino to have tested positive for coronavirus shortly after all nine Atlantic City casinos shut down in Atlantic City March 16. She was the first inpatient to test positive inside Atlanticare Regional Medical Center’s Mainland campus in Pomona, the hospital said in a recent release.
Liu’s not sure where she got the virus: Singapore seems unlikely at this point, as her visit there was significantly prior to when she experienced symptoms. She and her husband returned Feb. 10, and she went back to work feeling fine. She had no symptoms at that point.
Still, she said, “Everybody thinks it’s from Singapore."
On Feb. 25, they flew to Vegas for a four-day vacation. She says she and her husband rented a car, visiting nearby Red Rock Canyon and then out to Death Valley, about a 2½-hour drive from Las Vegas. They weren’t there for the casinos, needless to say. “We go to the mountains,” she said.
They returned to New Jersey Feb. 29 and she went back to her day shift as a dealer (“everything but craps”) the next day. By March 11, she was admitted to the hospital; within a week, she had landed in the intensive care unit. She finally returned home on Friday.
Vegas seems possible, certainly, as the source of her illness, she said. But she’s not sure of that.
“Everything was good for 10 days,” she said.
Liu says she can’t rule out that she got the coronavirus in Atlantic City. “There are some people, they cough, they never really cover their mouths," she said. "They do something like, ‘Ooh, I’m ok.’”
Still, ever the loyal employee, Ruixing says she’s ready to return to work at Borgata whenever it is the casinos open. Gov. Murphy has said the state is still weeks from reopening, and is planning to detail on Monday a plan to restart the economy in phases. Borgata declined a recent request to talk about how it would adjust its procedures in a post-coronavirus shutdown world.
Nearly 27,000 casino employees became unemployed after the casinos closed. Most got two weeks of pay. More than 1,000 turned out for a box of food Wednesday, jamming streets for miles.
Liu says the casinos have long proven they are adaptable. The casino floor was once a place where smokers were everywhere, but now is not, she pointed out. She thinks the same sorts of adaptations and precautions can make the Borgata a place where employees and customers can feel safe to come again.
“I would go back to work,” she said without hesitation.
Reminded that in China, she trained at Beijing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, she said she was in fact a pediatrician and laughed at the distant memory of herself in that role as a young woman. She came to this country at the age of 26, worked at other casinos before Borgata, worked on the graveyard shift at Borgata before landing on the day shift.