'This is as good as quarantine gets'

'This is as good as quarantine gets'

Sixty-five St. Mary's School students who have been quarantined in a Beijing hotel for nearly a week after two tested positive for the virus that causes swine flu expect their confinement to end Wednesday.

Neither of the pupils who tested positive fell ill. One was released from a Beijing hospital Monday, and another remains under observation at the hospital.

The students went to China as part of a goodwill-building program sponsored by the Chinese government to learn Chinese language and culture. St. Mary's School, a private Catholic school of about 430 pupils in Medford, was the first secondary school in the United States to become a Confucius Classroom under the Hanban Chinese Language Council Organization.

Sixty-four of the students are sequestered in a Beijing hotel and could be released as early as Wednesday, provided that everyone continues to test negative for the virus, said St. Mary's Principal Frank Phillips.

Bay Gross, who just graduated from St. Mary's, said the school group had been treated well, with all-you-can-eat Chinese buffets and special deliveries of Pizza Hut and McDonald's. Each student has his or her own room and laptop.

"Obviously, everyone was bummed that we have to be quarantined, but everyone realized that this is as good as quarantine gets," Gross said.

The students have to wear surgical masks whenever they leave their rooms but are allowed to gather for activities. They have spent their days playing board games, cards and volleyball in the parking lot, Gross said.

Photos of the students wearing masks while playing volleyball were published in multiple Chinese newspapers, he said.

Chaperone Nick Phillips has been teaching the students kung fu to prepare for lessons at the Shaolin Temple in Dengfeng in a few days, Gross said.

"With the 100-degree Beijing heat, when you add the mask it's a workout," Gross said.

Hanban has indicated it will provide the students with a special itinerary to try to make up for some of the sightseeing they've missed while in quarantine, such as the Forbidden City.

The students are scheduled to tour Beijing Wednesday and Thursday and then fly to Zhengzhou in the Henan province on the Yellow River, where St. Mary's sister school, the No. 2 Affiliated School of Zhengzhou University, is located before heading to the Shaolin Temple and ancient capital of Luoyang, Phillips said.

The group is due back in Medford July 31.

One student, however, will return home immediately after being released from quarantine because his grandfather, Dom Provost, of Ashland, has died.

Mace Provost, 14, has been with his classmates in the Yanxiang Hotel since last Wednesday.

"We are doing our best to get him home," said his mother, Deborah Provost. "It is just a tough time. It was a great trip and opportunity for him but bad timing. He and his grandfather were really close."

The Medford students' quarantine has been publicized worldwide, including on BBC and MSNBC on Sunday and local NBC affiliate, KOBI 5, on Monday.

On the KOBI broadcast, Gross' sister, Kelsey, leads about 40 St. Mary's students in the Michael Jackson "Thriller" dance.

"We all did it in surgical masks and gloves because we had nothing else to do," Gross said.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or

Share This Story