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Coronavirus: Utahn starts 14-day U.S. quarantine after evacuating cruise ship in Japan

Posted at 9:38 PM, Feb 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-17 23:48:35-05

SOLANO COUNTY, Calif. — After a long journey from Japan to the U.S., a Utah man is starting a second quarantine and sharing his experience after weeks of isolation inside a coronavirus-stricken cruise ship off the coast of Japan.

Surrounded by health officials in hazmat suits, sitting in rows of airplane seating bolted to the floor of an old cargo plane – it’s a scene Utah resident, Mark Jorgensen equates to something you would see in a science fiction movie.

“Just the surreal-ness of all these guys walking around us in hazmat suits,” Jorgensen said. “It’s just a wild experience.”

The cold, loud plane ride in the re-purposed cargo airliner, was just a 9.5-hour portion of the 24-hours it took to get the evacuees off the ship and back to the United States.

“I didn’t really anticipate the relief I’d feel by landing on U.S soil and knowing I’m one step closer to being home,” Jorgensen said.

Jorgensen was one of nearly 400 Americans evacuated from a coronavirus-stricken cruise ship off the coast of Japan Sunday.

Over the course of the 2-week on-ship quarantine, hundreds of passengers tested positive for the virus, making it the largest cluster of cases outside of mainland China.

Even Mark’s wife tested positive.

“I do have the coronavirus, otherwise I wouldn’t be here,” Mark’s wife, Jerri said in a Facebook live video from her hospital room.

“She’s still back in Japan at the hospital, she’s going okay physically, she doesn’t have any symptoms and she’s feeling well… but she’s feeling very isolated and lonely,” Jorgensen said.

Jerri will now be held in the Japanese hospital for another two-weeks.

Meanwhile, Mark may be back in the states, but the quarantine is far from over.

Upon arrival in the U.S, American evacuees were taken to Air Force bases in either California or Texas.

“Okay, here’s my room, it’s actually quite amazing,” Mark said as he walked around the hotel room at the Travis Air Force base in Solano County, California.

Mark will call the 2-bed, 1-bath hotel room, complete with a living room and kitchen, his home for the next 2-weeks.

“It’s a little unnerving with nothing going on, it’s the first time I’ve been totally alone, I had her [his wife] with me in the other quarantine so this is definitely a different experience,” Jorgensen said.

Health officials will continue to monitor evacuees, checking temperatures daily.

“As long as I continue to test negative and have no symptoms, then I’ll be released,” he continued.

Mark said he will do what he can to pass the time -- watch TV, read, sleep. Still, he looks forward to getting home to St. George, Utah and putting an end to this ‘vacation.’

“It’s certainly a memory I’ll have forever, it’s one of those things that just comes up in life and you deal with it,” said Jorgensen.

Mark said the first thing he plans to do when he gets back to the beehive state, is eat Mexican food and mountain bike.