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Minnesotans quarantined on coronavirus-infected cruise return to US, one step closer to home

Updated: February 18, 2020 06:09 PM

It was supposed to be a dream cruise to Asia for Amy Ellefson and Ron Hildeen, from Eden Prairie, but instead, they were quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The married couple is now at Travis Air Force Base in California in quarantine after being evacuated with other Americans over the weekend.

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As of Tuesday, 542 cases of the virus, known as COVID-19, have been identified among the 3,711 quarantined passengers and crew, making the ship the site of the most infections outside of China.


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“In the back of your mind, it's a concern that we're going to be next," said Ellefson who spoke with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS along with Hildeen via video chat about their time on-board.

Back on Feb. 3, the couple learned due to the coronavirus illness hitting other passengers they would not be allowed off the ship.

At times, with their masks on, they would venture outside the cabin, but the ship’s restaurants, shows and casino were all closed with only a few people out and about on the main decks the couple said.

“It was empty, like ‘Night of the Living Dead,'" Hildeen said. "You halfway expect to see zombies wandering the ship, that was the surreal part."

To pass the time, the couple watched a lot of movies and dined in the cabin with one window that did not open.

"You always dream of staying home and spending all day in bed, but that's not what it's cracked up to be," Ellefson said.

Over the weekend, the couple found out they'd be allowed to come back to the U.S.

If they remain healthy in the next 14 days, the couple has been told by medical staff they can return home to Minnesota.

"I'll get my fill of ‘Juicy Lucy’ and good Minnesota beer," Hildeen said.

In quarantine in California, the couple says they are allowed to go outside the facility that is surrounded by a chain-link fence.

The Associated Press contributed to this story. 

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Eric Chaloux

Copyright 2020 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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