SAN ANTONIO – Wednesday marks one year since a San Antonio couple was allowed to return home after a period of quarantine at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.
The order to stay on the military base came after the couple and other U.S. citizens were pulled from a cruise ship where some passengers tested positive for COVID-19. As they look back on the past year, Don and his wife, Natty -- who chose not to make their last name public -- say they have frustrations but remain hopeful they will get back on a cruise ship one day.
KSAT first spoke with Don and Natty in February 2020. The couple was told to stay inside their cabin on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship as it sat off Japan’s coast.
Don recalls someone making the announcement just moments after a dance that was held on the ship.
“We had, I believe, 732 people taken from the ship we were quarantined on,” Don explained to KSAT one year later.
The couple says one patient was a woman from Australia with whom they had dinner. A man from Florida was another patient taken from the ship. They kept in touch with him.
“He was on a ventilator for three weeks and almost passed away,” Don recalls.
The thousands of other passengers were eventually guided off the ship by crews wearing masks, aprons and face shields. Some of those passengers, including Don and Natty, were able to board a plane back to the United States.
The passengers landed in Military City, USA, and were instructed to continue their quarantine for two weeks at JBSA-Lackland. The group was eventually released on March 3, 2020.
Don remembers when he was finally able to go back to his home in San Antonio.
“I thought when we got back to the states, got out of quarantine, I said ‘OK, back to normal.’ And that was a mistake. It’s disrupting a lot of people’s lives,” Don said.
His wife, Natty, also noted, “It’s not a normal life, not like it used to be.”
The couple rarely leaves their home unless they go to the grocery store, take a walk outside or visit the Hill Country while inside their vehicle. Along with keeping their distance and washing their hands, Don and Natty also keep their masks on.
Don believes his experience on the Diamond Princess may help others understand the importance of these precautions amid the pandemic. He says it’s frustrating to see people wear a mask below their noses.
“You know, you breathe through your nose and your mouth. I would like to explain to them I was there. I saw a lot of people being evacuated, so this is a serious disease.”
Don was able to get his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. An appointment for his second dose is also scheduled.
“I will feel more comfortable, but I still will take precautions, like wearing a mask,” he said.
Meanwhile, his wife continues to wait for her dose of vaccine. She isn’t eligible yet, but she plans on getting the vaccine when that opportunity becomes available.
“I’m not scared because if it’s going to prevent you from getting COVID, why do you have to be scared?” Natty said.
Both of them hope to get vaccinated before their next cruise, which is scheduled in May. There is a chance it could be canceled, just like their past four other trips planned.
“We just have to take a few extra precautions. You can’t completely eliminate everything from your life,” Don said.