Carson City couple back home after cruise ship quarantine

On a trip already riddled with waiting, a few false alarms Saturday didn’t unnerve Steve and Zita Waclo of Carson City trying to get back to their hometown nor reduce their confidence.

The Carson City couple, along with others from Nevada from the quarantined Grand Princess cruise ship – then taken to the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego – were advised Saturday evening to be ready 7 a.m. Sunday for a flight back to the Reno-Tahoe International Airport to return home. At long last.

Some missed the text message, though, the Waclos told the Appeal Monday from the comfort of their home, with some already having gone to bed the night before without having seen it to be ready on time.

“We get up at 6 a.m. and there was hardly anyone there … the buses didn’t arrive until 9 a.m. … there was a chartered plane, and that involved sitting on the tarmac,” Steve said.

But that offered a rare close-up Hollywood moment for them.

“We had an opportunity to look up at the tower – you know that tower in ‘Top Gun’ where Tom Cruise buzzed the tower?” he said.

The approximate 40 passengers finally got on the plane, the Waclos said, with everyone required to be submitted for testing. The Waclos were swabbed and said their samples have been submitted to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They await their results but remain ever “cautiously optimistic” they’re still in good healthy, they state.

The Waclos said boarding the plane back to Reno, they were required to wear hospital grade masks for their safety.

“They won’t stop a virus,” Steve said, but it was for their own safety.

Certain workers accompanying them dressed in HAZMAT suits also donned “square devices,” he observed. Asking about them, he learned they were for ventilation for those wearing glasses, very helpful since those who are completely encased in the suits can’t stop to clear their fogged lenses as they breathe in their suits.

They touched down at about 3:15 p.m. Reno-Tahoe Sunday. A CCHHS van drove them back home to Carson City with their luggage delivered separately.

“We’re in a better place (at home),” Steve said. “We’re safe.”

A new routine

They will remain in quarantine at least through March 30, but CCHHS will continue checking with them daily, making sure their symptoms are contained.

The Waclos said their friends and neighbors have been delivering food and necessary items to them. The postal service has transferred items into wire baskets so they don’t contaminate their usual mail containers.

“Everybody’s just been wonderful in the community,” Steve said.

Steve and Zita will be required to keep a log, and the Waclos and the other Nevada passengers now will be receiving daily calls monitoring their temperatures and other morning and evening symptomology, they said.

The Waclos also keep track of what’s happening in their own community through an e-mailed newsletter, and they encourage their neighbors not to go out now unless it’s necessary.

“This is a really ugly situation,” he said. “If people had the option of staying home, they should be doing it. … We’ve got to be doing something.”

Grand Princess will be a ‘footnote’

The retired couple reflected on their entire cruise experience. They praised all the volunteers who assisted them along the way from all around the country, from disaster management teams on or around the Grand Princess, in Oakland, in Miramar and on the flight home.

“It’s not been one that has been horrendously bad,” Steve said of the cruise experience. “It has been one that has tested our patience. It has been largely boring, sitting around, trying to occupy our time. Another negative aspect has been being uninformed and not being able to find people that know the answers.”

But dealing with the panic and worries as many among their age troubled Zita more.

“We were fortunate in being healthy seniors,” she said. “We didn’t have as much of the fear as many of the people from that ship who have multiple comorbidities and problems.

“…We’re healthier and we expected that even if we did get the virus, we would recover,” she added. “But I think we can expect that even if we would recover, you can still bring it home. People would need to think about that.”

But in light of COVID-19’s longterm impacts locally and nationally, Steve said the situation, while it caused the passengers to remain in their “silos” initially on the ship, could have its longterm implications for fellow citizens in Carson City and other residents elsewhere.

“Maybe things are dynamic and fluid and changing … but I am deeply concerned,” he said. “I think the whole Grand Princess is going to be a footnote here in the whole story. I think we’re on the curve here as Italy was, and I think that’s where it was ahead. If you’re going to cut off the cat’s tail, don’t cut it off an inch at a time, just do it.”

At the end of it, he said, the couple was just happy they ended up choosing the outside cabin.


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