SAN DIEGO — More than 160 people who were in quarantine at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar boarded buses Tuesday morning and headed home to see their loved ones. The evacuees were on base for 14 days.
All of the evacuees came from Wuhan, China – the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak. The group was medically screened one final time for symptoms before being released, according to health officials.
Another group of evacuees is set to leave the base Tuesday evening between 3:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
One man who was quarantined at the base posted a tweet to social media early Tuesday morning showing his tags that he received after his last health check before his 9:00 a.m. departure.
Yu Lin said he made long-lasting friends during his stay at the base and thanked them for hanging with him as they threw their face masks in the air before leaving.
“People’s attitudes are improving. People are more chatty. There’s more smiles than frowns like there was the first few days. [They’re] getting excited about getting out of here,” said John McGory who was on the first plane that landed in San Diego from Wuhan.
He said he plans to spend a week in San Diego with family before returning home to Columbus, Ohio.
"There's no hurry. The last time I saw, it was 10 degrees there,” McGory said. “There’s no hurry to go back there.”
McGory and the other evacuees have gone through their share of ups and downs.
There were some growing pains as Health and Human Services figured out how to make everyone comfortable during their stay with adequate meals, snacks, laundry and other creature comforts of home.
“It took me three to four days to get a bottle of wine. I was happy I achieved that goal,” McGory said adding that the doctors, nurses and support staff have been very nice.
But there were also some health scares. Medical staff screened passengers twice a day for symptoms of the potentially deadly virus. Several were taken to area hospitals as a precaution and a few became the San Diego County's first confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Doctors and the Centers for Disease Control stressed evacuees pose no risk to the public after completing their quarantine.
Many like McGory are looking forward to returning to the simple things in life.
“It’ll be nice sitting outside, chatting with my family,” he said. “I miss my family and I just had a new grandson born. This is my fourth grandson. I’m not sure they'll let me hug him right away, but I’ll be able to look at him from across the room.”
San Diegan Ken Burnett is also getting ready to see his family for the first time in more than a month. He'll be flying to Sacramento to reunite with his wife and two children who were also on a 14-day quarantine. His wife Yanjun Wei was visiting family in Wuhan when the COVID-19 outbreak started.
On Monday, more than 300 Americans evacuated from the Diamond Princess Cruise Ship docked in Japan that arrived back in the U.S. landing at Travis Air Force Base.
Nearly 200 Americans arrived at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside on Jan. 29 and were quarantined there after being evacuated from Wuhan. That quarantine period ended on Feb. 11, with none of them showing any signs of the disease.
Worldwide, there have been more than 73,000 reported cases of the disease, which has killed more than 1,800 people, mostly in China.