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Utah couple cleared to leave Japanese hospital, U.S quarantine following negative coronavirus tests

Posted at 5:55 PM, Feb 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-27 19:55:19-05

UTAH — A Tooele man who previously tested positive for coronavirus has been released from a Japanese hospital and is awaiting travel clearance to return to Utah.

“I’m negative! And I’m so thrilled!” Melanie Haering exclaimed in a video message to her husband, John, as she shook a large manila envelope.

“So, honey, we’re going home! I love you!” she squealed.

The papers in the envelope were the first ‘gift’ Melanie received Wednesday. The second one came from her husband, John.

“Well baby, the happy day is here! I’m free to go!” John Haering said in a video message back. “I am going to be coming back to the U.S.A, I am so thrilled and so happy, and I can’t wait to put my arms around you… So, woohoo! I’m coming home!”

The husband and wife duo have been separated by thousands of miles for weeks.

“It’s an experience that we’ll never forget, I’ll just say that,” Melanie chuckled.

The couple set out for a month-long vacation – but the last three weeks turned into a blur of COVID-19.

They were among the thousands of people aboard the Diamond Princess cruise liner, quarantined off the coast of Japan on February 5 over concerns of coronavirus.

A few days after the quarantine began, John tested positive for coronavirus and was sent to a Japanese hospital. He later found out he also had pneumonia.

All the while, Melanie joined nearly 400 other Americans on a journey back to the United States.

Melanie and John started keeping video diaries of their experience. John documented his hospital time, while Melanie used her phone to film as she boarded a cargo plane -- seats were bolted to the floor to accommodate passengers.

“Are we for sure going to be quarantined for 14 days?” a woman can be heard asking one of the men in a hazmat suit. “Yes,” he said.

“I don’t like that answer,” she replied.

Roughly 24-hours of travel later, Melanie found herself back in quarantine at Travis Airforce Base in California.

“This is my place, it’s beautiful,” Melanie said as she took a video tour of her new coronavirus quarantine digs.

“Full bath,” she continued. “Another bedroom… my bedroom.”

Outside the door, a small open area with a bench and a picnic table of drinks for the taking. She could only walk about 50-yards from her unit and meals were delivered to her.

Every morning, Melanie would use disinfectant wipes to clean her door, then she would take part in a mandatory routine temperature check from 8 to 10 a.m., and again from 6 to 8 p.m.

Despite constant isolation, Melanie said the hardest part was being away from John. The couple stayed in contact as much as they could, sleeping weird hours to accommodate each other’s schedules.

“We both take care of each other, he takes care of me, I take care of him and so being alone has been very difficult,” Melanie said. “We miss being together.”

Still, Melanie got through it with a positive mindset.

“I think what really got me through was gratitude,” Melanie said. “You know, when we would have kind of a down point, it was like, ‘you know what, look what we have.’”

John faced his own struggles at the Japanese hospital, including a bad case of pneumonia and not having enough food to eat.

In a video post, John said his doctor no longer had concerns for the pneumonia, “it will just go away,” he said. His first meal post-release was fish and chips with ketchup. He told Melanie he was ‘so grateful’ to have the meal.

Now, with two negative tests behind him, John has been released from the Japanese hospital and is awaiting CDC travel clearance. He could board a flight back to Utah as early as Thursday evening.

Come Monday, Melanie’s two weeks of quarantine will come to an end and she too will return home.

“I’m just glad he’s going to be on American soil, I’m glad we’re going home to Utah,” Melanie said.

“We’re emotional and it’s been stressful, and it’s been hard, but it’s also been incredible seeing the amount of support and love and kindness and energy that has been given to us and we’ll never forget it,” she continued.

The two have decided to self-quarantine for a month upon returning to their Tooele home, just to be safe.

However, their coronavirus journey has not scared them away from travel. The couple plans to leave on another trip after their month of at-home quarantine is over.