How a San Diego Caterer Became One of the 1st in a Beijing Isolation Hotel

John Crisafulli, who runs Behind The Scenes Catering based in San Diego, had an experience he'd rather forget, but never will

NBC Universal, Inc.

Normally, Olympic firsts are celebrated but not for the San Diego caterer who was among the first Americans to be quarantined at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics with COVID-19.

John Crisafulli, who runs Behind The Scenes Catering and Events based in San Diego, had an experience he'd rather forget, but never will.

Crisafulli team has catered for 12 straight Olympics, feeding about a thousand people a day, including NBC broadcasters -- a huge job that requires his arrival in the host country weeks before the Games start.

But after passing his COVID tests in the U.S. and at the airport in Beijing, he received a positive test on day two in the host city.

"We were one of the first groups to experience this whole isolation hotel concept," Crisafulli told NBC 7.

Crisafulli was taken from his 4-star hotel by ambulance workers in HAZMAT suits to a COVID hotel. He figured his stay would last a few days -- after all he was asymptomatic and felt fine. But soon days turned into weeks.

In the isolation hotel, he had three meals a day and internet. He said the staff members were friendly but it was lonely.

"For me, it dragged on for 17 days… All by myself in a 12 by 12 room," Crisafulli said. [You're] "just kind of washing your clothes in the sink, trying to get by and stay busy."

What he needed to get out -- and didn't have -- were two consecutive negative tests.

"The system was set up that if you test positive, you can't leave until it's negative and it's an open-end so you start to think, 'How long am I going to be here? Am I going to be here for months?'"

Crisafulli did eventually get out of the isolation hotel while many others -- Olympians arriving to compete in the Games -- were just going in.

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