A Minneapolis man quarantined for two weeks on a San Diego military base has returned home after federal health authorities found that he and others who had recently traveled to China had no signs of coronavirus infection.
Yulin Yin, 48, said the group under quarantine held a graduation-like celebration on their final day on Tuesday — throwing face masks in the air, shouting and even high-fiving.
“Maybe a little tears,” he said. “Just no hugs.”
Yin was among the more than 600 people placed under quarantine — the first such federal action since a smallpox scare in the U.S. five decades ago — to try to limit the spread of a new coronavirus in the U.S. The virus emerged in a fish market in Wuhan, China, and has since caused more than 74,000 cases of coronavirus disease, labeled COVID-19, in China and nearly 1,000 cases in other countries. Fifteen cases found in the U.S. all involved people who recently traveled to the Wuhan region or their spouses or close contacts.
The quarantine was far from ideal, as Yin was penned with uneasy strangers in an area little bigger than a high school track for 14 days — the length of time in which health authorities would expect symptoms to emerge in infected people. Some people grew frustrated with the food or the uncertainty of their release date, said Yin, who was grateful for the delivery of a soccer ball he could kick around the yard.
Yin said he greatly appreciated the health care workers on site, and that for the most part he and others under quarantine were willing to wait out the time and submit to frequent screenings to make sure they didn’t bring the virus into the U.S.
“Now, I just want to get back to my routine,” said Yin, an IT professional and the father of two daughters.
Coronavirus infections were found in two people who, like Yin, had been evacuated in special flights out of Wuhan and quarantined in two barracks of the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. (Other flights took people to quarantine sites in Los Angeles and Omaha.)
One of the two cases in the Miramar group involved a woman who had been prematurely released from hospital care and allowed to stay in the same barracks in which Yin stayed. However, the woman was only there for an overnight before the error was discovered, and she had little contact with others before being returned to hospital isolation, the CDC reported.
Yin said he never felt serious concern for his health. While the novel coronavirus has been linked to more than 2,000 deaths in China, most have involved people who were older or had underlying health concerns.
The latest severity estimates from the World Health Organization indicate that 80% of infections result in only mild symptoms. However, as many as 2% of people die from infection, according to initial estimates. That is substantially worse than seasonal influenza, although that death rate could be overstated if many people with mild symptoms don’t seek health care or report their infections to authorities.
Now that Yin is home, he said he continues to have concerns for his parents, siblings and friends in Wuhan — who he had visited last month. Yin left China on an evacuation flight in early February after commercial flights were canceled and he faced the possibility of being stuck there until spring.
Yin arrived home at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday and did a little snow shoveling, though his wife, Ann, said she “totally slayed” single mom duties in his absence.
Yin said he received warm welcomes back at work Thursday and little indication that co-workers or others were nervous to be around him.
“I got even a cheer in one meeting,” he said.
Just in case, the CDC sent him home with a certificate of good health.
Jeremy Olson • 612-673-7744