BYRON — The quarantine isn't done for Minnesotans who were aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship which was hit with an outbreak of COVID-19, it's simply moved back to Minnesota.
Penny Flavin, a retired nurse practitioner from Byron, set sail on Feb. 21 from San Francisco to Hawaii, with a return trip scheduled for 15 days later. But Flavin did not make it back to the mainland – at Oakland – until March 9, disembarking from the boat three days later.
After that, Flavin, along with her sister, who won't give her name, plus Tim and Marie Kwosek of Minnesota City, were quarantined at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar near San Diego.
"On the 15th (of March) we got a call at 8:30 saying, 'Pack your bags, you're going home tomorrow at 6 a.m.,'" Flavin said. "Up until that point, everything from my perspective was great. They treated us fabulous. We had entertainment, we had food and we had a comfortable bed. If you needed clean towels, you left a note and, poof, clean towels."
Being quarantined, Flavin said, was not a bad experience, other than the inconvenience. As a nurse, however, she understood the situation and tried not to add to any grumbling that arose from some of her fellow passengers and quarantined folks.
"Americans complain," she said. "Some of them act like they are entitled."
Flavin said that among people on the boat, 19 crew members and four others tested positive for COVID-19. Once they arrived in San Diego, everyone in the group was tested for the virus and another four came up positive.
Like Flavin and her sister, Tim Kwosek said he and his wife are quarantined at home through Wednesday. But he considers himself fortunate that Gov. Tim Walz ordered Minnesotans who tested negative from the ship be repatriated to their homes.
"It's good to be home," he said. "We are so thankful for all of the people who are going above and beyond in helping everyone through this."
Kwosek said there is a lot of work being done at the quarantine centers, much of it by volunteers, that the public is unaware of.
"It's easy to sit back and criticize the efforts being made by our government leaders," he said. "But for those of us who are experiencing this firsthand, we know the best possible is being done."
Not all cruise passengers have been brought back to Minnesota. Glen Mitchell of Pine Island is still stuck at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, Ga.
"Not all Minnesotans were brought home," Mitchell said via email. "We are serving out the full 14 days of quarantine which are in addition to the six we were in our cabins quarantined on the Grand Princess."
Like Flavin and Kwosek, Mitchell said the cruise company and the folks at Dobbins have given good care for those in quarantine.
Flavin said she enjoyed her trip, even the quarantine, but the 24 hours of travel from Miramar to Byron was something of a logistical mess, with a lot of hurry-and-wait for those traveling.
Now that she's home, finding food and shopping for other essentials — yes, including toilet paper — are her biggest concerns. She's been asked to stay at home unless she needs to shop. A friend brought over milk, bread, tomato soup and a pound of hamburger. That will keep her fed a few days.
Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control would like her to take her temperature twice a day and report the results.
"I think that this entire experience was an adventure," Flavin said. "It’s a story that will live with my family and friends."