SAN DIEGO -- After spending two weeks under quarantine, 166 people who were evacuated from the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China, were released from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar Tuesday.
Many of the evacuees were bused to San Diego International Airport to fly back to their homes around the country. Over a dozen televisioncameras lined up on the curb at Terminal 1 aas a wave of white, charter buses pulled up.
“I was like ‘I don’t want to get off the bus,’” one of the passengers said when she saw all the cameras. “I was, is this a dream?”
“I am thrilled just to be here!” said another woman with a smile on her face.
“The government took good care of us,” said Cary Munger from Denver.
“The food was OK,” laughed Phil, an evacuee from Boston. “Every day, I’d pull back the tin trays with the covers, and I’d look and go, ‘Oh, broccoli again!’”
The group said the past two weeks on base were surprisingly nice, and the medical staff was attentive.
“They were really critical about us staying six feet away from each other and wearing the masks and no touching,” Phil said.
The group was the first and largest wave of evacuees to arrive at the air station; a plane carrying about 65 people arrived two days later, and those evacuees will remain under quarantine on base until they have completed their 14-day isolation.
Two of the Miramar evacuees tested positive for the virus -- which health officials refer to specifically as COVID-19 -- and remained in isolated medical care at UC San Diego Health. Five more people from the group tested negative Monday after showing potential symptoms of coronavirus; it was unclear as of Tuesday when they would be allowed to leave.
“We were terrified,” one confirmed. “But then the CDC explained it to us and we were like we trust the scientists.”
Departing evacuees told FOX 5 they would be shuttled to nearby train stations and airports to catch rides home. Officials offered loans for tickets for people who couldn't afford to get home on their own.
Yu Lin, an evacuee from Minnesota who provided insight on Twitter throughout his two weeks at Miramar, said he was given a final health screening before getting officially approved to leave the base.
After 14 days at Miramar, some evacuees were feeling reflective, leaving behind tokens of their appreciation. Hand-written messages for medical staff were taped to a counter in the quarantine centers. "You are the best," one read. "Thank you so much."
"I'm grateful and thankful to the U.S. Government and the staff here," another note said. "You have done very, very well, very attentively and very warmly.
There were moments of levity, too. Lin shared a photo of evacuees tossing their surgical masks in the air as if they were graduation caps.