EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — When Amy Ellefson and Ron Hildeen booked their Diamond Princess cruise, they thought they'd return to their Eden Prairie home on February 2nd. One month, and two coronavirus quarantines later, the couple finally walked into baggage claim at MSP.
"It felt like forever," Ellefson said. "I mean, the CDC was wonderful but it just went on and on and on and then it was anticipation with how you're going to get home and when you're going to get home. We're exhausted."
The married couple tells KARE11 they really enjoyed most of the scheduled stops on the cruise, but just before they returned to Japan, they learned that the coronavirus had made its way on board.
"The guys came to the door in full hazmat suits," Hildeen said. "It's like, 'Ah!'"
For the next 12 days the couple was quarantined on the ship. They spent most of that time in their room, monitoring their health.
"We were being tested for the virus and waiting for the results of our testing," Ellefson said. "Thank god, we both came back negative so we were able to go."
"The only test I ever wanted to fail," Hildeen said with a laugh.
But the quarantine on the ship also failed. With cases continuing to grow, the couple and other American passengers were flown to California in a converted cargo plane.
"It was terrible. They had two Porta-Potty pallets in there," Hildeen said. "One of the Porta-Potty's failed."
"After we got off the plane, there were about 20 people that tested positive from that plane," Ellefson said.
According to the World Health Organization, 706 Diamond Princess passengers have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, six have died. But Ron and Amy somehow stayed healthy through it all, including a second, 14 day quarantine at a military base.
On Monday, they finally had the tickets they'd been waiting for.
"We're just really happy to be here," Ellefson said. "Delta gave us first class and we've never been first class before. Just to relax and know we're on our way home was really good."
And if you're worried about the threat of coronavirus, take some advice from two Minnesotans who have come closest to it.
"Take it a day at a time and hang in there," Ellefson said. "What else can you do?"
"It doesn't do any good to sit and wring your hands," Hildeen said.
KARE 11’s coverage of the coronavirus is rooted in Facts, not Fear. Visit kare11.com/coronavirus for comprehensive coverage, find out what you need to know about Minnesota specifically, learn more about the symptoms, and keep tabs on the cases around the world here. Have a question? Text it to us at 763-797-7215.