EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — A 15-day cruise led to two extended coronavirus quarantines for a Minnesota couple.
Amy Ellefson and Ron Hildeen left Eden Prairie in January to take part in a Diamond Princess cruise that departed from Yokohama, Japan on January 20th. Just before their scheduled return, the crew learned that a passenger had tested positive for the coronavirus.
"That's when things started falling apart," Ellefson said.
On February 4th, the ship went into quarantine. Passengers were told to remain in their cabins for most of the day. If they ventured out they wore masks and kept several feet from one another.
"It was kind of scary," Hildeen said. "It was like some kind of ghost ship or something, you wonder where all the people went?"
The crew handed out masks and thermometers and delivered meals to the cabins. The rooms had cable/movies and wifi, and the couple says they also kept occupied with cards and other games.
"You appreciate the small things like two chairs, a window, coffee," Ellefson said. "At the time, more and more people on the ship tested positive for the coronavirus. Those people were taken off the ship to hospitals in Japan and the rest of us were still in quarantine."
After 12 days the couple learned that they'd finally be able to leave the ship and return to the United States. Though they were happy to be heading back, they say the 8 hour wait, followed by a 12 hour flight on a converted cargo plane was the roughest part of the trip.
"There's no windows to see out, it's like flying this giant barn," Hildeen said. "They had four porta-potties, two of which didn't work, two of which smelled like they didn't work."
Still, they were soon grateful not to be sitting in isolation chambers at the front of the plane, which, according to NBC news, were used to transport 14 fellow Americans showing symptoms of the virus.
"In a way it was comforting to know that they were going to greater lengths to try and protect us," Hildeen said.
The couple has now started a second, 14-day quarantine at Travis Air Force Base in California.
"They put up a chain link fence around our compound, so we are locked in," Ellefson said. "We've been taking our temperature three times a day, they gave us a thermometer and we have never had a fever."
That's one thing that they hope doesn't change any time soon.
"It's a long haul," Ellefson said.
"But if you've gotta be away from Minnesota, I can't think of any better months than January and February," Hildeen added.
While the couple waits out the virus in California, the passengers showing symptoms of the virus are now at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha for two weeks of medical evaluation. The most serious case is inside a bio-containment unit.