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Iowa man released from state self-monitoring program for coronavirus

Wally Heitman came back from a cruise that had a passenger test positive for the coronavirus

IOWA CITY, Iowa — What was supposed to be a fun international cruise to Cambodia, Thailand, Japan, and other countries turned into a long "adventure" for one Iowa man that recently ended after he completed a self-monitoring program for COVID-19, otherwise known as the coronavirus.

Wally Heitman is a seasoned traveler and enjoys taking cruises to other countries and continents. In mid-January, Heitman embarked on a 30-day cruise in East Asia. During that time, a passenger reportedly tested positive for the coronavirus, though despite more tests, the results turned out to be negative. The cruise schedule was cut short, and Heitman, along with the more than 1,400 other passengers, were tested daily for the disease. 

Credit: Wally Heitman

Heitman finally returned to his home in Iowa City on February 22 and was contacted by the Iowa Health Department, requesting him to test his temperature and look for symptoms of the virus every day. Heitman, a retired nurse, said he agreed to the self-monitoring arrangement and didn't leave his home except to grocery shop and pick up a friend from the airport.

"They....coordinated with the Johnson County Department of Health here," said Heitman. "And so when I got home, I got a hold of them right away. Well, they've what they wanted to do is to me just to monitor my temperature and report any symptoms through last Friday, which was the 28th."

Heitman said he views the situation as an "adventure."

Credit: Wally Heitman

"You know, some of my friends have called it an ordeal and a nightmare, and I wouldn't call it that I would just call it kind of an adventure," said Heitman. "I mean, I'm disappointed because I couldn't go to Australia...I mean, I could think of a lot worse things. And, you know, and the other thing is, I've always made I've done a lot of cruises, I've always made friends. And we kind of bonded... because of what we all experienced."

The number of people infected with the virus globally is approaching 90,000. Right now, the risk to Iowa is low, according to Iowa health officials. 

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