FREEPORT, Grand Bahama — Mikara Russell, 28, is back home with her husband, Glen, after traveling with dozens of other Bahamians and Bahamas residents from Fort Lauderdale to Freeport on Friday afternoon. They were all stuck in the United States after the prime minister ordered the borders closed on March 27 in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19.
The 28-year-old medical student, like many, is ecstatic to be home following weeks of uncertainty amid the global pandemic.
“When the plane landed, everyone just started shouting and celebrating,” she said.
Russell is currently enrolled at Barry University and is finishing her internship in medical technology.
“I’m actually studying everything about COVID. I saw the situation firsthand in the hospitals, so I had an appreciation. We were dealing with actual blood samples from COVID-positive patients. It was really eye-opening.”
She was originally set to finish in June, but her hospital rotations were stopped.
“The hospitals didn’t want to take the chance of students catching it,” Russell said.
She had been living on campus, but was desperate to get home once it was determined her classes will be ending and the Bahamian borders closing.
“If things didn’t work out,” she said, “the school was working on something for the students, but I would still have had out-of-pocket expenses. There are students from China, The Bahamas, whose countries’ borders were closed, so they had to stay.”
One of the requirements for returning residents was a negative coronavirus test. Fortunately, Russell was able to get tested for free.
“I went to a clinic in Plantation and they told me they had free testing on specific days.”
If she had to pay, that test would have cost her $200.
“I took the test Friday and I got the results Wednesday morning. The clinic said they would give the results to the Bahamian consulate,” Russell said.
She added, “They emailed me the results and then I called The Bahamas consulate and the next day the consulate told me I should be getting a call back.”
Two days later, Russell was on a packed Bahamasair jet heading home. Upon arrival, she said, passengers were screened and then transported by bus to Grand Lucayan resort – government’s designated quarantine facility.
“I didn’t take another test,” she said.
“They took my temperature and asked me a lot of questions. They called us individually to see the doctor and I had to sign a document and that was it; they said I’m released to go.”
On Thursday, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr. Delon Brennen said either the Ministry of Health or Department of Social Services will evaluate the homes of those returning, noting that those whose homes are deemed fit for self-quarantine would be permitted to return to their residences.
Russell said in her case there was no home visit.
She gleefully described her reunion with her husband as wonderful and “kind of weird”.
“We can’t hug. We can’t kiss. I have to go in the back seat. We have masks on. So, I’m like jumping up and down,” she said.
Pastor Glen Russell is thankful to have his wife home safe.
“This pandemic forced us into isolation,” he told The Nassau Guardian.
“This isolation will cause us to experience elevation. There will be glory after this,” he said.
There has been quite a lot of sentiment over the decision to have some returning Bahamians quarantine despite having tested negative.
Russell said as someone with a medical background, she understands the need for precautions and believes officials are trying to avoid creating a problem within a problem.
“The truth of the matter is, I tested Friday for COVID, but between Friday and the following Friday, I could have contracted COVID,” she explained. “When I think about it medically, it makes sense.”
Russell has an asthmatic niece who lived with her and her husband.
Russell said when she learned she will be allowed to return home, she had the five-year-old go and stay with another relative until her isolation period ends.
“Even with transit in the airport, I could have come into contact with someone there and brought it home,” she said. “So I understood what the Ministry of Health was trying to prevent.”
While she is back home and school is closed, the work continues for this medical student.
“While I’m home, I have a board exam I am studying for, my board exam for me to become an actual scientist. I will take it between July and August.
“I definitely believe God had everything ordained, so I’m grateful to God for that,” she said.
“If God takes us to it, he will take us through it.”