TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Gay Courter typically writes novels, but she tells 8 On Your Side she’s taking notes for her next book which won’t be a work of fiction.
“Truth is much stranger than fiction because some of the things that have happened are so unusual and so bizarre,” Courter said Wednesday from her room at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.
Now in a two-week quarantine at the base near San Antonio, Courter and her husband Phil are still worried about testing positive for the novel coronavirus.
“We’re not feeling very confident that are negative status is going to necessarily last,” she said.
After being stuck on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan during the worst outbreak of the virus outside of mainland China, Courter describes every daily temperature check as a nerve-wracking experience.
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“Thank goodness we passed our temperature checks this morning,” she said. “They knock on the door with thermometers, our heart drops a little bit and there’s a few seconds until we’re cleared because other people here haven’t been so lucky.”
More than 300 American evacuees from the cruise ship flew on two Department of State-chartered flights that took off from Tokyo International Airport.
Courter said men in hazmat suits greeted them when they arrived early Monday morning in Texas.
“It looked like we were the spacemen who landed in you know, Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” Courter said.
On the more than twelve-hour flight, Courter told 8 On Your Side she had a close encounter with one of 14 infected evacuees being escorted into an isolation chamber on the plane.
“She had to be maybe three feet from me and a guy in a hazmat suit walked up to her and said she tested positive in Japan,” Courter said, “and she had to go into this chamber and she had a look of horror on her face.”
Courter said a second Citrus County couple had been vacationing with her on the Diamond Princess.
“We asked not to be separated because we’re traveling together,” Courter said. “They ended up on Travis Air Force base in California.”
8 On Your Side asked Courter whether her neighbors back in Crystal River should worry when she eventually returns home.
“If we complete this 14 days on top of the other 14 days, we’re fine,” she said.
One thing Courter said she misses from the cruise ship is the food compared to what’s being served on the Air Force Base.
“They come around with little brown bags from the mess hall of food,” she said, “it’s probably more appropriate for a 20-year-old recruit than people of our age.”
Still, she said she is grateful the U.S. government answered her call for help and orchestrated an evacuation from the cruise ship.
“It feels darn good to be an American,” Courter said, “to have the privilege of having them come for us and to take care of us on this base.”
As of Wednesday, the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus connected to the Diamond Princess is 624. That is roughly one out of six people who boarded the ship.