It was the first day of freedom from quarantine for a group of Manila passengers who arrived on Guam 14 days ago.
Joe, a passenger from that first Philippine Airlines flight, has been chronicling his quarantine experience on NewsTalk K57’s Patti Arroyo show every morning.
On Thursday, he shared his final thoughts as he and the estimated 150 people on his flight walked out of the Pacific Star hotel for the first time.
Passenger Joe, as he’s come to be known, landed at 4 a.m. Thursday, March 19.
Joe and others on his flight arrived on Guam to an army of school buses on the tarmac, waiting to take them to various hotels for quarantine.
None of them were made aware, either by GovGuam or the airline, of the policy that changed overnight while they were mid-air. Previously, everyone arriving back on Guam was being asked to self-quarantine at home.
Joe’s flight was the first one to land under the new policy, mandating hotel quarantine for all Philippines passengers.
Joe and his family were first quarantined at the Days Inn Hotel, then moved to the Pacific Star in Tumon.
Joe said even though the process was chaotic at first, he understands why they had to be quarantined.
And ultimately, he’s happy that he was at least sequestered with his wife and son.
“I don’t know how I would have felt if they would have told us that we had to be separated…that would have been heartbreaking for me. And to be not separated from my family… I’m so thankful for that. I’m glad they thought that far ahead to keep family members together, especially when they’re not showing any symptoms.”
Joe and his family members have not showed COVID-19 symptoms at any point during their 2-week quarantine.
To prepare for the massive move out of the hotel today, Joe said officials gave everybody a notice slip during breakfast Wednesday, detailing what group number each of them were and what time they’ll be allowed to leave.
The staggered approach to the exit was done so passengers can maintain social distancing and not crowd around elevators, or congregate in the lobby.
Joe said more than anything, this experience will have a lasting effect on his hygiene practices and he believes it’ll affect everyone’s perception of germs overall.
“It makes you think about all the times that you weren’t doing this. When you weren’t washing your hands when you touched something or grabbed a bag of McDonald’s, and got back into your car…everything that you touched on the way in, and on the way out. And not sanitizing yourself. It opens your eyes to a lot of things, that we should really be practicing on a daily basis.”
Joe said there was an enormous amount of pressure on Adelup and Public Health officials who were monitoring the quarantine hotels.
He’s grateful to all the staff who monitored their symptoms daily, brought their food regularly, and dealt with the ongoing barrage of questions and concerns from passengers.
“They do have a dangerous job, I’ll tell you that right now. You need to focus, and move as if everyone around you is infected and that’s how you keep yourself safe,” said Joe.
“They protected us and they’re protecting the island as well.”
Joe was picked up by family Thursday morning and said all he really wanted to do when he got home, was do laundry.
The family will be continuing home quarantine as the island continues to essentially be locked down to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.
Joe and his family were not affected by a new court order, which gave Guam’s Department of Public Health, the authority to continue quarantining COVID-19 positive passengers and anyone they’ve been in contact with.
At least three passengers from incoming Philippine flights have tested positive, while quarantined at various Guam hotels.