It looked like any other Super Bowl party: A large group of people cheered for their teams in front of two big-screen televisions while enjoying pizza, cakes, and chips and salsa and drinking from red Solo cups on a sunny California day.
But people were being cautious, some wearing masks and avoiding physical touch. These Super Bowl viewers were all under a 14-day mandatory quarantine at a military base after being evacuated from Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in China.
Jarred Evans, a 27-year-old football player who plays for the Chinese National Football League's Wuhan Berserkers, is now one of the 195 evacuees being housed at an inn on the March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, California. Evans, who on Sunday was rooting for the Kansas City Chiefs, told BuzzFeed News the Super Bowl party was a much-needed morale boost for the evacuees.
Members of the group — comprised of US government personnel and private US citizens and their families — were chatting and getting to know each other while sitting on the chairs arranged on the lawn at the base. Others helped themselves to an array of Super Bowl snacks laid out on long tables. People were rooting for their teams, Evans said, and there was the usual good-natured competition that comes with big sporting events.
All things considered, he said, “it was a great Super Bowl party.” He added, “Everyone was relaxed. It brought us back to reality that things are going to be OK.”
Jarred Evans recorded a video of himself getting ready for the Super Bowl party at the March Air Reserve Base in California.
On Jan. 29, Evans managed to get a seat on the flight chartered by the US State Department to evacuate around 210 people from China to the US.
At first, the evacuees were under a three-day voluntary quarantine at the base, during which they were screened and evaluated by a team of doctors from CDC. But after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency, the evacuees were put under a mandatory 14-day quarantine starting from the time they left Wuhan.
Evans said he was in shock when told about the mandatory quarantine. He wanted to go home. For the six months of each year he's not playing in Wuhan, he lives in Miami.
However, he said, all the evacuees ultimately accepted the change of plans and understood the severity of the situation.
“This is not your common cold,” he said. “We don’t want anyone here to go home and happen to have the coronavirus and give it to their friends and family and then their community.”
The Trump administration on Friday declared the coronavirus outbreak a nationwide public health emergency, enforcing the quarantines for all US citizens traveling from the epicenter of the disease in China's Hubei province. The US government has also barred foreign nationals (except relatives of US citizens and permanent residents) traveling from China from entering the US. There are 20,438 confirmed cases of people infected by the virus globally, of which 17,205 have been diagnosed in China. The outbreak has killed 425 people so far, only one of which was reported outside China in the Philippines.
The Pentagon said Monday it had identified four bases with housing support for up to 1,000 people who may need to be quarantined upon their arrival in the US. The four bases include the 168th Regiment Regional Training Institute in Fort Carson, Colorado; the Travis Air Force Base and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in California; and Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.
Evans said his advice to others who may have to undergo quarantine at any of the bases would be to develop a routine.
He gets up around 5 a.m. and goes for a run. Then he joins other evacuees for a breakfast of eggs, bacon, potatoes, orange juice, and coffee. They also get their temperatures checked in the morning. He then goes back to his room and usually watches TV. Lunchtime is around noon, after which Evans does his second workout at the gym. The rest of the evening is spent enjoying the California sun. People usually play cards while kids cycle around the grounds, he said. The evacuees get another temperature check in the evening. Dinner is around 6 p.m., followed by some more TV and then bedtime. Overall, Evans said, the rooms have been comfortable and the food arrangements good.
“I’m blessed to be here, even if I am in quarantine, in America because it could be a lot worse,” he said. “It could be in China in an epidemic center, and I could be quarantined with a shortage of food.”
Evans said it was “scary” for him to be in Wuhan during the outbreak because he doesn’t speak or read Chinese.
“I was in survival mode,” he said.
He stocked up on food and water because he did not know how long he was going to be locked up in his home. Any information he got came from his Chinese friends, one of whom alerted him to the State Department flight evacuating US citizens from China.
Once he's released from the base, Evans has two plans: to hit the gym and go to North Carolina. The athlete said he has an important goal there: to “get a hug from my mother.”
The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus and deaths have been updated in this post.