How Tzu Chi Volunteers Offered Care to Repatriated US Citizens in Quarantine

National Headquarters  |  February 14, 2020
Tzu Chi volunteers deliver supplies to San Diego for quarantined U.S. Citizens at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. Photo by Peggy Joh

Written by Pheel Wang, Jennifer Chien
Translated by Diana Chang
Edited by Dilber Shatursun

When the COVID-19 epidemic spread throughout Wuhan and surrounding cities in Mainland China, the United States issued a federal quarantine order to repatriate American citizens from Wuhan, China. All 195 who repatriated to the U.S. on Jan 29, 2020 have been in quarantine for 14 days at March Air Reserve Base. This is a precautionary and preventive step to maximize the containment of the virus and to protect the health of the American public. As a result, Tzu Chi USA volunteers began to think mindfully about the needs of those in quarantine.

During the evacuation, did they have enough clothing and medication? Are they afraid of being discriminated against because of COVID-19? Will they feel lonely?

At large, Tzu Chi USA volunteers launched a fundraising campaign called “Providing Relief During the New Coronavirus Outbreak.” It’s goal is to gather, pack, and ship protective medical supplies to medical professionals and residents on the frontlines in China. In Southern California, Tzu Chi volunteers also delivered care supplies to those repatriated US citizens in quarantine.

Right before the US government prepared to repatriate American citizens, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) invited Tzu Chi USA, the American Red Cross, the Food Bank, the Salvation Army and other organizations to address the needs of this group. According to Tzu Chi’s Debra Boudreaux, as a current member of the Federal Emergency Program Interfaith Committee, Tzu Chi gained access to sensitive population information that could allow them to make culturally and religiously sensitive recommendations.

After several conference calls, she explained Tzu Chi USA would be providing supplies for those in quarantine. Tzu Chi volunteers also took on call center-like responsibilities to help translate necessary communication for any quarantined persons who don’t speak English. These volunteers would also offer calm to the anxiety and psychological distress of those in quarantine.

Finally, those held at the March Air Reserve Base for 14 days were ready to return home. Many of them had experienced negative emotions such as fear and frustration. However, Tzu Chi volunteers helped them relieve their stress with patience and love. At the end of the quarantine period, the first group of 195 repatriated passengers’ COVID-19 screening tests came back negative from the CDC. They were allowed to return to their homes on February 11. Many repatriated passengers thanked the volunteers over the phone for their support.

Tzu Chi staff member Curtis Hsing shows the list of supplies delivered to the quarantine passengers repatriated from Wuhan, China. Photo by Peggy Joh

At the same time, Tzu Chi volunteers delivered supplies to the American Red Cross in San Diego on February 11. The shipment included 260 eco-blankets, 100 eco-scarves, 200 reusable bags and three boxes of dental floss. Curtis Hsing, a Tzu Chi staff member, explained that:

Due to preventive measures from the CDC, only three members of the American Red Cross team have received epidemic prevention training. Therefore, the supplies need to be delivered to the American Red Cross location by the March Air Reserve Base first, and then the supplies can be delivered by the dedicated three members to the March Air Reserve Base.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, the United States transferred several waves of repatriated U.S. citizens from Wuhan, China to military bases in Southern California for quarantine. On January 29, the first group of 195 passengers entered the March Air Reserve Base in Riverside and on February 5th and February 7th, another two groups of passengers entered the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, too.

Tzu Chi delivers supplies to the American Red Cross in San Diego, where it will be then transferred by designated personnel to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. Photo by Peggy Joh

As the COVID-19 quarantine period runs its course, it can put tremendous psychological distress on the body, mind, and spirit. People around the world must brace for the danger of the pandemic but also keep “contentment, gratefulness, understanding, and unconditional acceptance” at heart. This way, we may turn our good fortune and blessings into courage and reduce the panic and fear of uncertainty.

Prevention is counting on you. With your help, we can send supplies to those on the frontlines of this disease to help safeguard as many people as possible. Let’s build a cycle of love around the world.

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