the power of pizza in federal quarantine

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — A Nebraska man never planned to have a two-week stay at MCAS Miramar, but his unexpected trip in February 2020 turned out to be our first glimpse at life in quarantine — and the power of pizza.

One year ago, Charles Wasserburger was traveling in Wuhan, China on business when that city became the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.

He and about 200 other Americans were evacuated to the San Diego military installation for a mandatory 14-day quarantine. Little did we know, it was a preview of a new way of life for us all.

The Omaha, Nebraska native became our unofficial guide to the first lockdowns and feelings of loneliness we would soon all discover. And he captured how the little things can add up during life in quarantine, like the daily government-catered meals.

“I’m just eating the food they have here and suffering through all the pizza and burger commercials they have on TV,” told us in a report last year.

Wasserburger’s wife heard that plea back in Nebraska. Just days before Valentine’s Day 2020, she reached out to us with a request; help deliver a gift to federal quarantine.

She knew just the thing Wasserburger wanted most. A pizza.

Our mission took about a half-dozen people. We contacted two federal agencies for permission, the CDC and HHS. Eventually, the precious pie was hand-delivered by a U.S. Marine.

Wasserburger sent us a video of him enjoying the pizza with some of his compatriots in quarantine. “It’s a morale boost to get me through the next week, because it was starting to get a little rough here,” he said.

When Wasserburger’s quarantine clock expired and he was permitted to return home, I met him at San Diego International Airport with a parting gift. One more pizza. This one, from Landini’s.

In honor of Valentine’s Day 2021, we checked in with Charles from his home in Omaha. Yes, he’s still eating pizza.

“I had pizza yesterday but no, I’m trying to cut it down just a little bit,” he said.

He says he’s trying to focus on health a little more in 2021. He and his wife avoided the virus, but his daughter caught COVID. She recovered.

After that, Wasserburger put himself back on the front lines of the pandemic. He volunteered for a vaccine trial in Omaha.

“If you’re nervous about the vaccine, I would just say you’re not doing this for yourself. You’re doing this for the greater good,” he said.

He’s still working for the same microbiology company that used to send him on international trips. Now, he’s working from home, spending a lot more time with family.

I reminded him how much he said he missed his wife while he was in quarantine at Miramar. “I wonder now a year later, you’ve been living so closely with your wife,” I said. “Do you feel the same way?”

“I don’t miss her as much as I did then,” Wasserburger quipped. “Yes, we’re still very much in love and we enjoy each other’s company, and we get to enjoy that every day. That’s a very nice thing.”

The pandemic changed a lot in Wasserburger’s life. It changed a lot in all our lives. Businesses changed. Dining went outdoors.

Thankfully, pizza still tastes the same.