My Unexpected COVID-19 Isolation in the Hospital Ward in Taiwan

Updated: Mar 19

February 17th, 2022 by Cindy Jeng

It’s February, and I have been back in the US for over a month. I have meant to share my unexpected isolation at the hospital in Taiwan, but I have been procrastinating. I want to emphasize that this was just my personal experience back in December 2021, so here it goes.

My mom passed away on Thanksgiving 2021, and I had to plan my trip back to Taiwan within a few frantic days. My family sent me all the Covid protocols and strict requirements from the Taiwanese CDC for a trip back home. I booked the flights, took a quick day trip to New York City (10 hours drive back and forth) to apply for my Entrance Certificate, got my Covid PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test 3 days prior to the flight and. With my family’s help, I was lucky to get a quarantine hotel room to stay for 15 nights as required by the government. There are only certain hotels that are assigned for quarantine. The latest Covid-19 surge had made travelling extremely complicated and most of the quarantine hotels were already booked. Here is the updated Quarantine System for Entry (Aircraft version), which has been modified from the policy that I followed back in December 2021.

My flight left Baltimore Maryland at 6:15 in the morning (12/1) so I had to wake up in the middle of the night to get ready. There were a lot of preparations and processes to go through before the trip, during the trip, and after landing at the airports in San Francisco and in Taiwan. It took much longer, required more patience, more Mindful Inhaling and Exhaling (Pranayama)… and I will spare you the lengthy details that involved the 24 hours of travelling.

Beautiful birds-eye view of Baltimore,

the rising sun, and the crescent moon

Masks are mandatory for air travel

So, I was finally done with every single step required to enter the country and start my quarantine (got my Health declaration Certificate, bought the SIM card and service plan for declaration, electronic tracking system & scanning QR codes, and received the Covid Antigen Kit that I was supposed to take on a certain date after landing), and pushed my luggage out of the Taoyuan International Airport. One last step was to take the Covid Saliva Test before I could wait in line for the Covid Quarantine Taxi to get to the quarantine hotel. No family were allowed to pick me up. I finally arrived at the hotel when it was almost 10:00pm (12/2) local time and 9:00am (12/2) on the East Coast USA.

My Health Declaration Certificate

I received my quarantine sticker and was ready to move to the quarantine taxi line The hotel looked good. I brought crochet supplies, yarns, and a few books in the hope to keep myself occupied for the duration of the quarantine. I also planned to practice yoga philosophy- Santosha during these days, as well as other philosophies and practices. Because the purpose of my trip was to attend my mom’s funeral, I could legally go out for 4 hours each day to meet with my family and take part in funeral preparations. However, before all that could happen, I had to take another PCR test to prove that I was negative. The day I took the test was considered the first day, and each CPR test was only good for two days. If I wanted to go out again, I needed to take another PCR test, which I had to pay out-of-pocket for USD $166. This expense is on top of having to spend money to quarantine myself in the hotel for 15 days and taking quarantine taxis to where I needed to go.

I didn't know what was coming the next day

I was supposed to stay here for 15 nights

Anyhow, I scheduled the Quarantine Taxi to pick me up the next day at 8:00am. While waiting, I was chatting with my youngest son and he showed me his BB gun and other stuff via LINE (Thank you so much, LINE app!) The local Public Health Center offered 24-hour service and the lady who arranged the taxi and answered my questions were very helpful, nice, and patient. I got in the taxi, the driver was wearing all the proper outfits, he sanitized my luggage, shoes, and hands before allowing me to get inside. There was a plastic see-through sheet acting as a barrier between the front and the back of the car. Taiwan has done a good job tackling Covid-19 during the pandemic. I stood in line for a long time and finally was able to hand in the filled-out form, and paid cash to get my PCR test. When it was my turn, I asked questions for clarifications, and a lady in the back of the line started getting impatient and she was either referring at me or the staff handing the registration, with her loud voice yelled our “Miss, can you go fast? We have been waiting for a long time!”

The well-protected taxi driver drove me

to the Covid-19 testing site

The same taxi driver was waiting for me the entire time in the car, and he drove me back to the hotel. It was unreal that I was in Taiwan, it was unreal that I was looking at the familiar shopping center, but I wasn’t allowed to visit it for two more weeks. If I went back to my Mom’s house, it would be the only spot I could stay for 4 hours. They had me in the system and started tracing my whereabouts the minute I got in the hotel, along with everyone else who had traveled internationally to the island. I had a lady assigned to contact me a few times a day to make sure I was in the hotel. I was supposed to keep my cell phone on at all times and was required to answer all texts from her. The lady was just doing her job and she was basically just sending greetings to me and asked me how I was doing. I also needed to report my temperature regularly.

So, after the test, I was back at the hotel. The staff were very friendly. They put the meals on the stool outside of the room at certain times of the day. I had my lunch, and then dinner, and was waiting for the phone call to tell me that I could go out that evening to meet with my family, who were all at Mom’s house, waiting for me to join the first day of Buddhist rituals for my mom that will then be repeated every 7 days for 7 weeks.

When the phone finally rang, I eagerly picked it up and was so ready to hear the confirmation that I was good to take a 4-hour leave that evening.

It didn’t happen that way. Mr. Tsai from the Public Health Center of Taoyuan District called me and started talking.

“Ms. Jeng, did you take the PCR test this morning?”

“Yes, I did.”

“So, the result came back POSITIVE. Please pack all of your stuff and we are sending the ambulance over at 6:30 to take you to the hospital for treatment.”

“WAIT! WHAT?! What!? How was it possible? What treatment are you talking about? I need to attend my mom's funeral..." " I am sorry that you probably won't be able to attend the funeral."

While I was waiting for the ambulance, I got a phone call from Mr. Tsai again to begin the process of contact tracing.

I tested negative 3 days before the flight and the night before. I had all my vaccinations and a booster shot as well. I wore KF94 masks during the flights and in the airports, and I didn’t feel sick. I did have a very mild cough and itchy throat that started a month ago, but I was feeling basically normal. Couldn’t a girl just simply have a mild common cold during the pandemic? Plus, I had both a rapid test at landing and a PCR test 3 days before my flight, both were negative, and my saliva covid test at the airport was also negative. I later learned that within 2-3 months of a Covid infection, one was likely to experience inconsistent results of Negative and Positive. It was like a Covid Test Lottery that you didn’t want to win.

This was all too dramatic. I felt like it was the plot of a movie.

I called my sister and asked her not to panic, and then I told her that my result came back positive, and they were sending me to the hospital. She later told me that the air at my mom’s house was totally frozen when my family learned this shockingly bad news. Covid confirmed cases were still rare in Taiwan, let alone it happening to their family member.

I was case #16759, one of the 11 confirmed covid imported cases on 12/4. I think I most likely was the first confirmed case in Taiwan who was fully vaccinated and boosted yet had a breakthrough. The newspapers reported the daily cases, and the headline was about a lady who was me. I made a headline, kind of.

Daily summary of the Covid confirmed cases on the right. See my number?

I felt bad for those people who were seated around me in the airplane. They most likely would have been notified to do tests, and quarantine themselves. I remembered the lady sitting in front of me (same seat number, she was one row before me) was wearing an all-white suit from head-to-feet, wore gloves, and face shield plus a facemask. I felt sorry especially for the two teenagers sitting next to me.

Here came the ambulance

It was very tricky to carry my one big piece of luggage and one small one into the ambulance when there was equipment and a stretcher inside. It took me a while to get them in and arranged. It was unbelievable and interesting that I was in the ambulance. Everyone I saw that night was in their best protective gear.

I hauled my luggage and

walked myself into the ambulance

The medical staff were ready for me

I was asked to stay in the isolated room on the first floor for blood work and some tests. The guy who performed the X-ray (with a portable machine) was the only one that was unfriendly during the entire stay in the hospital and the whole trip in Taiwan. He pretty much was yelling and ordering me to do this and that. And then there was waiting.

After one and a half hours, I followed the nurse to take the elevator to the 19th floor, Room 1933, to begin my 10-day isolation.

Waiting for bloodwork and tests done

in an isolated room