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Wisconsin National Guard helps bring cruise passengers home

An aircraft carrying Wisconsin citizens returning from a cruise ship with confirmed cases of COVID-19 arrives at Volk Field Combat Readiness Training Center March 15. Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers and Airmen transported the residents to their homes for self-quarantine. (Video capture from Wisconsin National Guard motion media by Sgt. Alex Baum)

An aircraft carrying Wisconsin citizens returning from a cruise ship with confirmed cases of COVID-19 arrives at Volk Field Combat Readiness Training Center March 15. Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers and Airmen transported the residents to their homes for self-quarantine. (Video capture from Wisconsin National Guard motion media by Sgt. Alex Baum)

MADISON, Wis. -- Twenty-nine Wisconsin residents who spent a weeks-long ordeal aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship due to confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus arrived back in Wisconsin late Sunday night and were driven home for self-quarantine by Soldiers and Airmen from the Wisconsin National Guard.

Two passengers chose to remain in quarantine in Texas under the custody of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HSS), citing personal reasons. State officials continue to work with HHS to return home seven Wisconsin passengers still in HHS custody in California, where the cruise ship docked at the Port of Oakland.

Gov. Tony Evers announced March 12 that Wisconsin was working to bring the cruise ship passengers home. As of Monday, none of the returning Wisconsin citizens have tested positive for COVID-19 and all are asymptomatic, but the residents will follow Center for Disease Control and Wisconsin Department of Health Services protocols and continue to self-quarantine for 14 days.

"We're glad to finally have our folks back home in Wisconsin," Evers said. "These individuals have gone through a harrowing experience full of uncertainty and fear over the past several weeks. But as I've said repeatedly, here in Wisconsin, we take care of one another.

"I am incredibly grateful to Wisconsin's Department of Health Services, the Wisconsin National Guard, and our entire state government for the hard work they've put in to ensure we bring our people home safely and ensure the safety of our communities."

More than 3,500 people were on board the Grand Princess, which had 21 total confirmed cases of COVID-19.

The return of the Wisconsin residents, although delayed, went smoothly. Maj. Gen. Paul Knapp, adjutant general of the Wisconsin National Guard, welcomed them home on behalf of the governor. Residents received a letter from the governor, information about their quarantine, and how to contact the local or state health department.

About 30 Soldiers and Airmen from the Wisconsin National Guard mobilized to state active duty after the governor declared a public health emergency Thursday. They were standing by to transport the residents home after they landed at the National Guard's Volk Field Combat Readiness Training Center in Camp Douglas, Wisconsin. From there, Guard members drove them home in state vans. The Soldiers and Airmen will self-monitor for 14 days upon the conclusion of their mission.

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