Hinda Gilbert says she wouldn’t recommend Travis Air Force Base as a vacation destination. And she will never again look the same way at a turkey sandwich or cookie, which were served repeatedly during her stay at the base in Fairfield.
Gilbert, 82, who just completed a two-week quarantine at the base after her Grand Princess cruise ship became a coronavirus hotspot and national news story, described the experience as necessary and even positive at times.
“I reconciled that I would make the best of it,” said the Congregation Emanu-El member, who returned home to San Francisco on Tuesday. “And I did. The purpose of the quarantine was to make sure that anyone who caught the virus on the ship would be kept from going into the community and spreading the disease.”
Gilbert, who was with her friend Dolores Mackinnon for the entirety of the quarantine, said she spent her time calling friends and family and watching the news. The two were part of a group of 3,500 cruise ship passengers who were quarantined at four different military bases around the country. They described their living situation as a “midlevel” hotel room with all of the basic necessities, including a refrigerator, microwave and desk.
Meals were delivered to their room three times a day. Temperatures were taken twice a day.
Her only complaint about Travis Air Force Base? “The food was horrible,” Gilbert said. “I think a lot of people were complaining.” (Others who were quarantined expressed similar opinions to the San Francisco Chronicle and USA Today.)
At least two cruise ship passengers did more than just complain about food. A Jewish Florida couple is suing Princess Cruise Lines for $1 million, alleging that the company kept the coronavirus outbreak quiet so as to not hamper profits, putting passengers and crew at risk.
Now that Gilbert is home, she says she has a lot to catch up on, including paying bills and figuring out what to do about other planned trips and whether to cancel now or wait.
Gilbert will be sheltering at home, apart from the occasional walk to the mailbox, to continue protecting herself from exposure.
One of her grandchildren, 24, who lives in Los Angeles, recently experienced symptoms she believes is coronavirus. While her condition is stable, “she has never felt this bad in her life,” Gilbert said. “There were times where she could hardly breathe.”
Gilbert said she needs to be extremely careful because she has some underlying health issues, which are known to put her at high risk of severe illness if she contracts COVID-19.
“I don’t think I would live through it,” she said.
She isn’t upset about having to stay home, though. “The irony is, being in quarantine is not that terrible,” Gilbert said. “There are things you can do. Reading. Downloading a library book. Cleaning your closet.”