DaVina Jackson (right) of Fort Valley, Georgia, and her children, daughter JeNaii (left) and son JeKaii (center) returned from China last week. They are seen here at her mother’s house, where they are waiting out the two-week quarantine period. CONTRIBUTED: DAVINA JACKSON

Quarantined Georgia woman: ‘Everyone is treating us like a pariah’

The prison sentence for the Jackson family is almost over.

DaVina Jackson, a resident of Fort Valley, Georgia, and her two children escaped from China last week.

When they arrived at her mother’s condo in Miami, a public health nurse suggested that they stay inside for two weeks, though the confinement wasn’t compulsory.

That didn’t matter to Jackson, 45. “We have not gone anywhere and don’t plan to until the quarantine is over,” she said this week. “Everyone is treating us like a pariah, which is hurtful because we have never shown any signs of illness and have been locked away from everything and everyone.”

» THE LATEST: Complete coverage of coronavirus in Georgia

That quarantine, during which they’ve been visited periodically by health officials to check their “temperature log,” will be over next Wednesday. After that, Jackson hopes to return to Georgia. “We are long overdue for some Southern hospitality,” she said.

Jackson traveled to China last summer to teach English to pre-school students. She brought along her children, JeNaii, 13, and JeKaii, 9, with the hope that they would benefit from experiencing a new culture and a new language.

DaVina Jackson (center) and her children, daughter JeNaii (left) and son JeKaii (right), lived off of a 50-pound bag of rice while they were voluntarily confined to their apartment in Nanjing, China, before they were able to find flights home to the United States. CONTRIBUTED: DAVINA JACKSON
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

And, in fact, it was a great experience for them, until the COVID-19 outbreak turned Nanjing, China into a ghost town.

Officials at Jackson’s place of work told her there was nothing to worry about, but she didn’t accept their reassurances, staying in her Nanjing apartment for more than a month while she struggled to find a flight out of China.

» LOCAL IN-DEPTH: A map of coronavirus cases in Georgia

With countries closing their borders, that exit was difficult. She finally secured passage to South Korea last week, leaving behind everything but the clothes they could pack into their suitcases. The tickets cost $5,000, which Jackson would have been unable to pay without the help of a GoFundMe account.

At Nanjing airport security, she and her children went through the most intense inspection she’s ever experienced. A team of eight officers removed everything from her suitcases and examined every item minutely, including Jackson’s hair. Onboard the airplane, stewards measured her temperature, which was elevated, because every part of her body was covered in layers of clothing. “I didn’t want a single thing to show.”

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When the group finally arrived in Miami, Jackson’s Chinese cell phone failed to work, so she simply showed up at her mother’s condo unannounced. It was 4:30 in the morning. Luckily her mother, Deborah Brown, was awake, reading her Bible.

Quarantine is yet another boring seclusion, she said. Jackson doesn’t even go out on the balcony, because her mother is concerned about the neighbors’ reaction to seeing a quarantined visitor outside. “Every couple of days (the public health nurses) check in to see if we’re healthy,” said Jackson. “We have temperature logs, and they provided us with a thermometer.”

Brown was simply grateful to see her daughter and grandchildren again. “I really kept thinking I would never see her again, the way you hear the news here,” she said.

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