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SALT LAKE CITY — "It ain't Delta One, but it's headed in the right direction," said Mark Jorgensen in a Facebook post.
The four Utahns, who have been quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Yokohama, Japan, with more than 3,000 other people, begin a new stage in the ongoing process that began on Feb. 5.
Jorgenson, of St. George, and Melanie Haering, of Tooele County, left behind their spouses, who have tested positive for coronavirus, to head back to the U.S. They will arrive to Travis Airforce Base in California and then travel to either Nebraska or Texas for an additional 14-day quarantine.
“Travelers returning to the United States from high-risk areas are required to undergo quarantine,” read an email from the U.S. Embassy in Japan. “Accordingly, you will need to undergo further quarantine of 14 days when you arrive in the United States. We understand this is frustrating and an adjustment, but these measures are consistent with the careful policies we have instituted to limit the potential spread of the disease. We appreciate your understanding and cooperation and will provide all the assistance we can to support the quarantine process.”
Jerri Jorgenson was taken off the ship and to a hospital four hours away after developing a fever on Feb. 14 and will fly back in a hospital plane to be treated. John Hearing also tested positive for the virus 24 hours before Jerri Jorgenson. He was removed from the ship after exhibiting symptoms on Feb. 10. Those who have the virus will have to test negative twice in a row to be cleared.
Melanie Hearing said the hospital plane her husband is on could get to the U.S. before she does.
Mark Jorgenson posted that those who were shuttled to the airport had to wait more than three hours to load the bus while they were being screened for symptoms.
"The U.S. medical people, state department people, and everyone else are doing their best to stay upbeat and helpful," Mark Jorgenson said in his post. "The logistics of putting this together have got to be enormous."
Once on the plane, he said it took nine busloads of people who waited on the bus for six hours before boarding. He said that he is expected to arrive in Fairfield, California, at 6 p.m. PST. , Those who have chosen to stay on the ship will remain in quarantine until Feb. 19, then after that a timeline for when they could return to the U.S. is unclear.
“Should you choose not to return on this charter flight, you will be unable to return to the United States for a period of time,” the embassy letter said. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will make a final determination on this matter.”
Both couples have been maintaining positive mindsets and say they "see a light at the end of the tunnel."
"It looks like we're on the second half of this ordeal," said Melanie Haering on a Facebook live video. "And there's kind of a brighter light."