Several Americans waved goodbye from inside a bus as they were released Tuesday from quarantine at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, where they were held for two weeks for their potential exposure to coronavirus, or COVID-19, while in China.
Hopping off one of the three buses that shuttled the evacuees to San Diego International Airport, one Chicago-bound woman told NBC 7 the 14-day experience was like a “vacation.”
“Nice hotel for us, three meals a day and we just go get it,” she said. “All we needed to do was take temperature twice a day so it was kind of a vacation, very relaxing. Really good.”
Despite avoiding contact with each other, the evacuees in Miramar made close connections and friends via text, according to the woman. Group chats were made at the quarantined site where people shared information with one another.
“We are very thankful that the U.S. government sent us a charter flight,” she said.
The individuals in Miramar were aboard the first of two planes evacuated from the center of the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, China, and transported to the military base on Feb. 5, where they were held in secluded housing for 14 days.
The majority exhibited no signs of infection but seven patients were taken to UC San Diego Medical Center and Rady Children's Hospital for cough or fever symptoms that warranted investigation, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said.
Two patients tested positive and remained hospitalized at last update from UCSD Medical Center on Tuesday. Four others had pending test results and remained hospitalized as of Friday, the CDC said.
More on the virus in San Diego
A three-year-old girl, who was hospitalized twice, showed negative results upon second testing and was sent back to MCAS Miramar. She and her father were among dozens of Americans to deboard a bus at SAN on Tuesday to return home.
At one point, one of the patients -- who later tested positive for COVID-19 -- was sent back to MCAS Miramar because of a communication error over her test results.
The miscommunication was part of the reason San Diego County leaders on Friday declared a local public health emergency.
Health officials reiterated that the patients quarantined at MCAS Miramar and isolated in local hospitals did not pose a risk to the general public. Instead, the health emergency was issued to ensure the county's agencies could better coordinate and distribute resources, Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said.
On Monday, health authorities reported 2,048 new cases of the virus and 105 more deaths. The death toll was 1,770.
Wuhan has accounted for the vast majority of mainland China's 70,548 cases. Some 60 million people in that area and other parts of China are under lockdown in a bid to prevent the virus from spreading further.
Outside China, the quarantined cruise ship Diamond Princess has the largest number of cases of COVID-19, now at 454.
Two chartered planes flew 340 Americans who were aboard the Diamond Princess out of Japan late Sunday. About 380 Americans had been on the ship and were flown to military bases in Northern California and Texas.
The State Department announced later that 14 of the evacuees were confirmed to have the virus in tests given before they boarded their planes.