ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
The quarantine has ended for the first group of Americans who were evacuated from China because of the coronavirus outbreak there. Nearly 200 people, including some children, have spent the last 14 days at the March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County, Calif. Most of them got on buses today to head to airports and then finally home. NPR's Patti Neighmond reports.
PATTI NEIGHMOND, BYLINE: Matthew McCoy is 55, lives in Shanghai and designs theme parks, large and small. He loves what he does, and last night was a good night.
MATTHEW MCCOY: The movie manufacturing company that does special effects like vehicles - they're - built the Mars rover vehicle, the "Ghostbusters" vehicle. And I got them together with a theme park overnight, so I've been putting that deal together all night.
NEIGHMOND: McCoy had been working in Wuhan, epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. And along with dozens of other evacuees, he's tried to make life here on the base as normal as possible. For example, they set up a daily town hall meeting.
MCCOY: After we got our medical checkup - this is basic information you get from the CDC. They tell you the direction where things are going. And the CDC is doing an outstanding job. The marshals are doing an outstanding job. You know, it's just a great situation where we had people with positive-thinking minds.
NEIGHMOND: They created classes in Zumba and finance and transformed the parking lot into a playground for the kids.
MCCOY: They had chalk glasses, or they had drawing classes, leather craft classes, puppeteering.
NEIGHMOND: Local volunteer groups donated toys and toiletries, candy and treats, even pizza for a Super Bowl party. Today, McCoy talks with us by Skype outside as people ready for departure.
MCCOY: I'm standing in the middle of the parking lot, looking at the CDC vehicles, the county emergency vehicles. And the nonprofit people are collecting all the bikes and toys and things this morning, taking them to the next base, Miramar.
NEIGHMOND: A base where other evacuees from China are now under quarantine.
The departure here is bittersweet. Of course, everyone's eager to get home. But after two weeks, bonds have been formed and friendships made.
MCCOY: We're kind of sad saying our, you know, goodbyes to each other. We've all created a family environment here, and we're putting it all together - connections with WeChat and some other chat groups and Skype groups.
NEIGHMOND: McCoy says they're going to stay in touch as long as they can.
MCCOY: This is a cool thing. I've had many invitations to go different cities and hang out at their place after this.
NEIGHMOND: There are some worries about leaving. People wonder - will they be shunned?
MCCOY: Some news media that will make a big deal out of it and make a drama case out of it and cause unnecessary stress to the public - you know, some people who are not as educated in medical background field, they're going to get very abstract and afraid and run the other way. That's the kind of stigmata. We're not zombies. Everything's cool. We're clear.
NEIGHMOND: Dr. Cameron Kaiser, public health officer for Riverside County.
CAMERON KAISER: The whole point of this two-week process is to give the public as much confidence as possible these people don't have it. They've been tested, in a few cases, multiple times. They've had thermometers pointed at their foreheads twice a day. They filled out tons of questionnaires.
NEIGHMOND: And remained quarantined since January 29.
KAISER: Which is well in excess of any reasonable incubation period. You come out of all that. You're asymptomatic. Your tests are negative. You go home. You don't have novel coronavirus. And the public needs to understand that.
NEIGHMOND: CDC officials say accurate information is best found on their website, www.cdc.gov.
Patti Neighmond, NPR News.
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