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LI passengers from coronavirus hit cruise ship stuck in quarantine

From left, Janis Brock, Stanley Dachinger, Jackie Brock

From left, Janis Brock, Stanley Dachinger, Jackie Brock and Linda Dachinger on Thursday as they remained quarantined at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, Georgia.   Credit: Stanley Dachinger

More than 60 New Yorkers, quarantined at a Georgia Air Force base for nearly a week, said they were told Tuesday that they would be returning home only to be blocked from boarding a plane hours later and instructed to return to their hotel rooms.

The chaotic scene played out at Dobbins Air Force Base, which has become the temporary home for many former passengers of the Grand Princess cruise ship. The cruiseliner had been forbidden to dock in San Francisco amid evidence of nearly 20 coronavirus cases that resulted in at least one death.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's office said the New Yorkers would be evacuated after being tested for the virus. Senior officials from the Department of Health and Human Services agreed Tuesday to test the New Yorkers, with the results expected back Wednesday, said Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi

Long Islanders who spoke to Newsday on Monday about their quarantine said they had asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to test them for COVID-19 but their requests were ignored.

"The health and safety of New Yorkers is our top priority," Azzopardi said. Common sense dictates that they should be tested to stop the spread of this virus, he added.

Jackie Brock, 73, of Manorville, who is staying at the Air Force base hotel with his wife, Janis, 70; her sister, Linda Dachinger, 76, of Holbrook, and her husband, Stanley, 77, said the situation was infuriating. The governors of at least five states have evacuated their residents from the Marrietta, Georgia, base in recent days, all without first testing them for the virus, Brock said.

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"Why is every other state allowing their residents to come home? It's ridiculous," Brock said.

 CDC spokesman Bert Kelly confirmed that New York cruise ship passengers, while on a bus waiting to board a plane home Tuesday, were informed that the state was not ready to repatriate passengers "and they were safely returned to their housing areas. HHS staff are offering to test all New York residents housed at Dobbins. Testing is completely optional." 

The tumult came one day after Newsday reported exclusively on the desperate pleas from the Brock and Dachinger families, urging Cuomo to evacuate them from the base and allow them to finish their 14-day quarantine at home.  

On Tuesday morning, Stanley Dachinger said he and his family were instructed to pack their bags, board a bus and get on a charter flight back to New York. It is unclear who issued the order but Azzopardi said it did not come from Cuomo's office.

But as the New Yorkers were waiting on the bus, Air Force personnel told the group that "Gov. Cuomo changed his mind" and they could not get on the plane. The charter, Stanley Dachinger said, was eventually used to shuttle Massachusetts residents — who had not yet been tested for the virus — back to their state. 

Dachinger, a U.S. Army veteran, said he was frustrated with the process.

"Our level of depression is so high at this point that we don't even leave our room," Dachinger said. "It's just so unfair."

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