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Welcome back, Rhode Islanders! Now go home and stay there.

Rita O'Connor of Cumberland, R.I., sitting in a wheelchair, filled out paperwork after landing at T.F. Green Airport from Florida. She and other returning Rhode Islanders were greeted by the National Guard and an order by Governor Gina Raimondo that they isolate themselves at home for the next two weeks.
Rita O'Connor of Cumberland, R.I., sitting in a wheelchair, filled out paperwork after landing at T.F. Green Airport from Florida. She and other returning Rhode Islanders were greeted by the National Guard and an order by Governor Gina Raimondo that they isolate themselves at home for the next two weeks.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

WARWICK, R.I. -- They arrived at T.F. Green Airport from all over the country, some wearing face masks as they came down the escalator into the arrival area.

And they were greeted with an unusual sight: a dozen or so members of the Rhode Island National Guard, waiting to tell returning Rhode Islanders that they would have to self-quarantine for two weeks.

Few passengers were surprised. Many said they were glad that Rhode Island was taking action.

“They have to do it. We have to cooperate and be smart about it. That’s all we can do,” said Rochelle Ryan, 70, of Cranston, as she wore an N95 mask. “We don’t want a situation like Italy.”

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Ryan, who was returning from Tampa, worried about flying home, but worried more that if she waited too long, there may not be flights.

Near a Starbucks kiosk, closed due to coronavirus restrictions, the Guard cordoned off an area to meet with arriving passengers. A sign showing the fewer-than-usual arriving flights hung next to a sign of the quarantine order, issued by Governor Gina M. Raimondo.

As of Tuesday, whether Rhode Islanders were returning from Paris or Punta Gorda, Florida, everyone, except for public safety and health care workers, must isolate themselves for two weeks.

Each passenger was given handouts: Raimondo’s executive order, information about COVID-19, and instructions on how to self-quarantine. They were asked to fill out their contact information for the state Department of Health, which will use it to track whether any of them contract coronavirus and, if possible, learn about the spread of the virus.

Passengers were a little startled, but cooperative throughout the day.

“We understand there is a sense of unease. That’s O.K.,” said R.I. Army National Guard Captain Mark Incze. “We want people to understand how dangerous [COVID-19] can be. It’s O.K. to be worried, but I’m not frightened, and the people of Rhode Island don’t need to be frightened by it.”

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Some Rhode Islanders cut their trips short because of the coronavirus fears.

Rita O’Connor, 85, of Cumberland, had intended to stay another month and a half in Florida with her chihuahua, Holly. Instead, she took a flight home Tuesday, wearing a mask that her daughter, Joanne Ouellette of Attleboro, sent her.

Louise Ferrante of Coventry, R.I., was assisted by a T.F. Green Airport employee after she arrived home from Florida.
Louise Ferrante of Coventry, R.I., was assisted by a T.F. Green Airport employee after she arrived home from Florida.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Louise Ferrante, 82, of Coventry, said her children insisted she wear a surgical mask for the flight home from Punta Gorda, Florida, even though “I’m not ill,” she said.

She understood their reasons, just as she understood why the Guard was there to tell her to quarantine.

“I think it’s important," Ferrante said, as an airport worker wheeled her toward the exit. “You can’t take too many precautions.”


Amanda Milkovits can be reached at amanda.milkovits@globe.com