Vail Valley couple question why Miami ship’s passengers allowed to go home and they’re still stuck in California quarantine |

Vail Valley couple question why Miami ship’s passengers allowed to go home and they’re still stuck in California quarantine

‘Why are we here?' ask Bonnie and Buddy Sims

Very little of that luggage belongs to Bonnie Sims. She and Buddy are still quarantined in San Diego's Marine Corps Air Station Miramar because they were on a cruise ship with people infected with coronavirus. That luggage belongs, mostly, to people quarantined in other places.
Special to the Daily

As forced confinement goes, Bonnie and Buddy Sims say they have it pretty good. Still, they have this one existential question: “Why are we here?”

More than 3,870 passengers disembarked from the MSC Meraviglia in Miami on Sunday, even though one of them tested positive for COVID-19, the Miami Herald reported.

None of the passengers were tested before they left the ship. Many went directly to Miami International Airport for flights home, the Herald said.

That was not the Sims’ experience. After COVID-19 showed up on the Grand Princess while they were passengers, they spent eight days in quarantine moored off the coast of San Francisco. They and many of the other 2,011 Grand Princess passengers are watching the seconds tick past as they slog through an additional 14-day quarantine at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego by order of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While Bonnie is made of sugar and spice and everything nice, Buddy is made of questions. After what happened in Miami, Buddy conjectured that perhaps the CDC viewed the Miami passengers with less alarm, or perhaps the federal government is running out of space to quarantine people.

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Still, the Grand Princess gave California its first COVID-19 fatality so he says he understands the abundance of caution.

Taking the COVID-19 test

Buddy is a retired Lt. Colonel and Air Force pilot who served America in three wars. Generally, he’s happy around big, fast aircraft, and when he’s around Bonnie. So he’s pretty happy in Miramar. Bonnie is generally happy no matter what.

They’re even happier now that the CDC has tested them for coronavirus. The CDC tested a Grand Princess group from Texas and sent them home. A Minnesota group was tested Monday and headed for the airport where they sat around for a couple hours because their charter plane wasn’t where it was supposed to be. Their bus brought them back to Miramar where they hung around in the courtyard and the San Diego sunshine, although their facemasks made their suntans a little uneven. A couple hours later they climbed back aboard the bus for the airport and on their way to the North Star State. Grand Princess passengers from seven other states are also on their way home.

COVID and Coloradans

Coloradans are having a different experience. The 40 Coloradans from the Grand Princess quarantined in Miramar were tested Monday. They’ll have their results in two to five days. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis is sending a charter flight, and those who tested negative can come home. Those who tested positive will be taken to a couple of San Diego hotels that the federal government has taken over.

Coloradans Brad and Becky Grant celebrated their 47th wedding anniversary quarantined in California with the Sims and hundreds of others. They live in Wheat Ridge and Lake County.

Like the Sims, they and their daughter Beth Helmke, of Buena Vista, also have questions — lots and lots of questions — that they asked the CDC and others in an email that Sims was happy to share.

For example, why the apparent “lack of functional organization and laissez-faire systems in place?”

“People are being asked to regularly congregate with others in large groups multiple times a day,” Helmke said in her letter.

Take mealtime, as an example. The quarantined persons are expected to come together three times a day in groups of (greater than) 100 people to receive boxed meals and use common beverage stations, waiting in line in a tight space for extended periods to do so.

“My father’s observation is that they are not even following minimum safe food handling protocols, which would be a public health risk even in times without a pandemic,” Helmke wrote.

Communications breakdown

As with most large operations, the problem appears to be communications, Buddy said. Because he doesn’t have that much to do, he counted public and private agencies in and around Miramar working the quarantine. He topped two dozen and decided he’d done enough counting for one day.

Buddy shared an email in which a base spokesman, Captain Matthew Gregory, told Sims that the military was “providing the facility to host the quarantine,” and HHS and its Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC are “responsible for the care of those who are traveling through on their way home.”

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said in a statement that the quarantine operation “raised many significant logistical challenges.”

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