57 released from coronavirus quarantine at Camp Ashland make their way home

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ASHLAND, Neb. (WOWT) -- Fourteen days is up.

After clearing their last round of testing, the 57 under quarantine at Camp Ashland for possible novel coronavirus were released Thursday, heading to Eppley Airfield and on home.

Dr. Eric Kasowski, the Centers for Disease Control team lead for the quarantine at Omaha, said Thursday morning that all 57 are healthy and will return to their communities.

"The really, really important thing to know is that these people pose no health threat to their communities," he said. "These Americans have done their duty — 14 days — and they're getting to go back to their families."

With no sign of COVID-19 and the CDC's confirmation they are of no risk to the general population, the group brought to Omaha from China began trickling into the airport throughout the day to catch flights home.

"We did their final health checks, everybody was cleared, and it was amazing to see their before pictures with their masks on and then the after picture," Dr. Joe Smith of the CDC said.

Families previously under quarantine unloaded out of vans at Eppley Airfield, assisted by authorities and escorted to their terminals to make sure they made their flights. The group was catching fights out of Omaha all day Thursday.

"By midnight tonight, we should have around 95% of our guests should be gone, and there are some families going out tomorrow," Smith said.

Doctors who have been overseeing the quarantine stressed Thursday that all in the group are safe to travel in crowds.

Other airport travelers told 6 News they weren't concerned.

"If they've been in quarantine for 14 days, they should be fine," said Stephanie Stone of Texas.

But some weren't so sure.

"I do see a lot of people getting on with the masks."

P.J. Caplan said that even knowing the group had been cleared by doctors, he wasn't taking any chances on his flight back to Georgia.

"I've got my Clorox wipes for the seat when I get in," he said. "I'm getting ready to go home. The last thing I want to do is take something back to my family and kids."

Earlier Thursday from Camp Ashland, Kasowski praised the group for their outlook during the quarantine period.

"They were just grateful," he said. "This was a fabulous group. They were happy and grateful the entire time and really thankful, certainly, to be here in the United States. They understood the reason for the quarantine and were really patient with it."

The group flew in from China nearly 2 weeks ago and has been tested twice a day every day for the coronavirus.

"There's just an engrained thankfulness to be in the country, and I saw that come through over and over," Smith said. "There's a tremendous spirit of gratitude with this crowd."

They were tested one last time Thursday morning before being officially cleared to go home.

Officials say it's bittersweet. The group has become close, knowing they're all going through this together.

“I like to see it when our citizens are taken care of and I like to see our system work,” Smith said.

Arriving Friday, Feb. 7 on Kalitta Airlines at Eppley Airfield from Wutan, China, after a layover in California, the group OF 57 was transported directly to Camp Ashland. All but one remained there through the entire quarantine period; one woman in the group was transported briefly to the National Quarantine Unit hospital for closer monitoring after developing possible symptoms but was returned to Camp Ashland the following day.

In China two weeks ago, they had been forced into quarantine after the coronavirus outbreak. With the quarantine period ending Thursday, Smith said they've been getting the group prepared to ease them back into their everyday lives.

They have had counselors on hand to reduce any mental or emotional stress they may be experiencing.

Smith said the release wouldn't be a big display like the buses that brought them in. Each family will be driven to the airport by officials depending on when their flights are. We're told the people in the group live all around the country.

“We have quite a mix, we have more than a dozen under the age of 18 including 2 infants I can't wait to be able to hold before they leave,” Smith said. “There’s absolutely zero fear, we started out with 57 healthy people, we're finishing up with 57 people and I wouldn't mind if any of my children sat next to them on an airplane, that’s how confident I am with this process.”

The 13 people housed at UNMC have tested positive for coronavirus, and authorities are still waiting for the results of their testing.

Read the original version of this article at www.wowt.com.