1,600+ Missionaries Return Home From Philippines Amid Coronavirus Concerns
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Hundreds of missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints arrived home early amid worldwide concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.
More than 1,600 missionaries filled up five chartered flights Sunday, all returning to Salt Lake City from the Philippines.
Because of COVID-19, families were not able to greet them inside Salt Lake City International Airport. Instead, it was a celebration like you’ve never seen — in the parking garage.
Janet Holm was just one of the many anxious moms in attendance. Her son TJ had been serving in the Philippines for the past 18 months.
“He’s devastated to leave,” she said. “He absolutely loved his time there so I know he’s going to need a lot of love and support but we’re excited to see him.”
Because of a new travel directive from the Philippine government, Church leaders pulled out all missionaries who are not native to the Philippines.
One-by-one, they started coming through the sliding doors into the parking garage and were met with cheers of joy from family and friends.
— Tania Dean (@taniadeanksl) March 22, 2020
But many of the missionaries said they still wish they were serving.
“Of course I’m kind of sad but I’m really happy to see my family,” said Elder Dunyon.
“It’s kind of bittersweet,” said Elder Allred. “We have to go home a little bit early but it’s really awesome to see my mom and my family.”
For the Holm family, the moment they’d been waiting for finally arrived, wearing a shirt, tie and name tag.
His family, so grateful to have him home in a time of such global uncertainty, cried tears of joy to see him safe.
“Feels good,” said Elder Holm. “I feel great.”
All of the missionaries from the Philippines will now be on home quarantine for the next 14 days as a precaution.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released this statement regarding self-isolation guidelines for missionaries and their families:
“As many missionaries return home in the coming weeks due to the COVID-19 outbreak, they will be asked to self-isolate for 14 days, regardless of where they traveled from. This is an important precaution in accordance with guidelines from the World Health Organization and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), even though many of these missionaries have already been self-isolating or come from areas where the virus is not as prevalent.
“Parents or guardians should go to the airport alone to meet a returning missionary and practice safe social distancing while there. That way, the missionary is able to properly begin self-isolation. Upon returning home, missionaries should strictly follow the self-isolation recommendations of the CDC which include limiting contact with others and avoiding leaving their homes for any reason. They are encouraged to stay in a well-ventilated room, preferably alone. If that isn’t possible, the missionary should stay six feet away from others in the room. They should use good hygiene and regularly wash their hands. If a missionary develops any symptoms of a respiratory illness, they should contact a local health provider.
“We ask families, friends, and community members to help support and encourage missionaries to follow these guidelines to help prevent any potential spread of illness and keep missionaries and those around them safe.”
Parents, please go to the airport alone to pick up your returning missionaries, and help them strictly follow all self-isolation procedures for their first 14 days at home.
— Gov. Gary Herbert (@GovHerbert) March 23, 2020
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How Do I Prevent It?
The CDC has some simple recommendations, most of which are the same for preventing other respiratory illnesses or the flu:
- Avoid close contact with people who may be sick
- Avoid touching your face
- Stay home when you are sick
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Always wash your hands with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
The CDC does not recommend wearing a face mask respirator to protect yourself from coronavirus unless a healthcare professional recommends it.
How To Get Help
If you’re worried you may have COVID-19, you can contact the Utah Coronavirus Information Line at 1-800-456-7707 to speak to trained healthcare professionals. You can also use telehealth services through your healthcare providers.
If you see evidence of PRICE GOUGING, the Utah Attorney General’s Office wants you to report it. Common items in question include toilet paper, water, hand sanitizer, certain household cleaners, and even cold medicine and baby formula. Authorities are asking anyone who sees price gouging to report it to the Utah Division of Consumer Protection at 801-530-6601 or 800-721-7233. The division can also be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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