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They’re home — well, most of them

The New Mexicans traveling in an air ambulance from Miramar Naval Air Station to Albuquerque wear protective masks for their flight. They are among the thousands of Grand Princess cruise passengers shipped off to military bases after COVID-19 was detected among other passengers and crew. (Courtesy Carolyn Wright)

An air ambulance arrives at Miramar Naval Air Station in San Diego to transport four New Mexicans home late Saturday night. The four arrived in Albuquerque about 1 a.m. Sunday. They are among the thousands of Grand Princess cruise passengers shipped off to military bases after COVID-19 was detected among other passengers and crew. (Courtesy Carolyn Wright)

Fifteen of the beleaguered New Mexicans whose Hawaiian cruise aboard the Grand Princess turned nightmare after several passengers and crew members tested positive for COVID-19 arrived home Sunday, eight days after they had been scheduled to return.

Carolyn Wright of Santa Fe said she and travel mate Beryl Ward, also of Santa Fe, were transported by state-chartered air ambulance along with two other New Mexicans from Miramar Naval Air Station in San Diego and arrived around 1 a.m. in Albuquerque.

The passengers were tested for COVID-19 upon arrival — thought Wright said they had been previously tested at Miramar — and were escorted home still in masks by a member of the New Mexico National Guard.

Eleven more New Mexicans arrived just after 11 p.m. from Dobbins Air Force Base in Georgia, said Cindy Rizzo, a passenger from Los Lunas.

A 12th man in his 80s did not make the trip to New Mexico after he fell ill and was hospitalized, governor’s spokeswoman Judy Gibbs Robinson said. It was not known yet what the cause of his illness is.

Two New Mexicans who had been isolated at Travis Air Force Base with their California granddaughter opted to remain at the base, Robinson said.

The passengers from Dobbins included eight New Mexicans  who had refused late Thursday to depart from a bus after learning they were not headed to Miramar as planned. Their whereabouts had been unknown until Saturday when Rizzo’s husband, Mark, texted a Journal columnist that they had been taken to Dobbins.

Initially, the New Mexicans were scheduled to be taken off the Grand Princess, docked at the Port of Oakland in California since March 9, and flown to Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, in Texas, to be tested and quarantined there.

But after Texas refused to take passengers from other states and complaints by passengers grew louder about how disorganized the federal agencies tasked with handling them were and how they were not being told what was going to happen to them, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham ordered that arrangements be made to bring the New Mexicans home to be tested, treated and self-quarantined.

Federal authorities had balked at returning the passengers until Saturday after hours of negotiations.

“Our governor pulled out all the stops,” Wright said upon her return home.
“I just want to thank all of our friends and family that helped make this possible. It takes a village, and the New Mexico village sure came through.”

The Grand Princess went under quarantine March 5 and was diverted from San Francisco to Oakland after two passengers and 19 crew members tested positive for COVID-19. The two-week cruise, which carried 3,533 passengers and crew, had been scheduled to return March 7. The cruise began in Los Angeles, traveled to Hawaii and was diverted from a stop in Ensenada, Mexico, after COVID-19 was detected.

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