SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – A missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, who was among thousands sent home early because of the COVID-19 pandemic, has since tested positive for the virus and likely infected four of his family members.
It’s been hardly the homecoming Elder Caden Johanson expected since he returned home more than a week ago.
“I really wasn’t expecting it because I felt fine,” Johanson said.
He was picked up in a Salt Lake City International Airport parking garage by his parents, who were following new guidelines that were implemented after a large number of families disregarded social distancing while picking up their missionaries.
Not long after beginning his isolation at home, Johanson said his dad decided to check everyone’s temperature just to be safe.
“They got to me it said 103 or 104 and everyone’s like, ‘whoa what’s going on?’” he said. “I was like, ‘I don’t know. I don’t feel sick.’”
But within 48 hours, Caden had tested positive for the coronavirus and his diagnosis was only the beginning. His brother also tested positive. When his parents and another sibling began showing symptoms — including fever, cough and shortness of breath — they were told not to be tested but to just assume they have it and to isolate themselves from the other family members who had no symptoms.
“I don’t think it was something I got when I was traveling or while I was here. I think it was something I may have gotten in Mexico without knowing,” Johanson said. “It’s been really good to be with family and to see all of them but at the same time it’s been really weird.”
Especially compared to the last 17 months he spent serving and preaching the gospel to the people in the Mexico Cancun Mission. Like thousands of other missionaries around the world, his time abroad was abruptly cut short when the Church decided to send “a substantial number” back to their native countries.
“It’s tough leaving the mission where you’ve been called to, where you’ve been serving,” he said. “It’s been a really drastic change.”
“We just have to be really really careful because we got multiple people under the same roof,” said Craig Johanson, Caden’s father. He said he and the others who are sick stay out of the kitchen and common areas to avoid coming into contact with the couple of family members who have, so far, been spared from any symptoms of the virus.
“We mostly stick to our rooms and they roam a little more freely than the rest of us,” he said.
For now, the Johanson family is just trying to make the most of their quarantined time together, as Caden waits for the day when he can leave home again and return to the mission field with a new assignment.