HALIFAX -- Canadian ex-pats living in the United States are thinking about their loved ones in the Maritimes as the number of people diagnosed with COVID-19 continues to rise.

Tina Schettino-Irish of Bluffton, S.C.,and her father had big plans to celebrate his 70th birthday.

"Night and day, we're talking because I miss him and we had that trip planned for next month," Schettino-Irish said.

She is from Halifax but lives in South Carolina. Her dad is in Springhill, N.S.

"He called me a couple days before everything got really bad and said, 'I live in Canada and I cannot come to the U.S.,' I said, 'What's going on, dad?'" 

It wasn't long before everything changed.

Now, the World Health Organization fears the U.S. could become the next epicentre of the outbreak, with more than 1,000 deaths and more than 70,000 diagnosed with the virus.

Mitchell Steeves lives in Kentucky, but he's originally from Lower Coverdale, N.B.

He's hopeful America's strong economy prior to the outbreak will help the country bounce back.

"This virus doesn't care about who's in office, it doesn't care, it doesn't care about the state of the economy when it happened, it just happened," Steeves said from Richmond, Ky. "The business and the economy in this country really was firing on all four cylinders and in my opinion that helps."

Anna Pottier-Hickman says she wants her family and friends in Yarmouth County to be grateful for the way Canada is handling the outbreak.

"I think Trudeau has wisely avoided politicizing it and weaponizing it as Trump has done here," Pottier-Hickman said from West Valley City, Utah.

The Belleville native lives in Utah, but continues to keep an eye on coronavirus news up north.

"Be grateful for your healthcare system in Canada," Pottier-Hickman said."Stay safe, stay strong, keep informed as best you can - we'll get through this."