Final 12 St. Mary's students expected home Saturday

All 12 students from St. Mary's School who had to remain in China because they tested positive for H1N1 influenza have tested free of the virus and can return to Southern Oregon.

Frank Phillips, St. Mary's headmaster, said in an e-mail Wednesday that the last three students who had previously tested positive have now tested negative.

He said they will spend today and most of Friday in the city of Zhengzhou and fly to Beijing late Friday afternoon. From Beijing they will fly to Seattle on Saturday, then catch short flights that will bring them to Medford around 9 p.m.

The 12 students had to stay behind when the other students in their group of 64 returned home last weekend. Nine students who tested negative earlier have been sightseeing in China while they wait for the others to be released.

"They are getting spoiled at a five-star hotel and eating at some nice restaurants, hosted by high-ranking government officials," Phillips said.

He noted that 30 members of the Chinese Ministry of Education who were with the students as guides will be quarantined until Saturday, "so our group was 'lucky' to get out when they did."

The students and a group of chaperons went to China for three weeks to study language and culture, but they spent most of the time in quarantine after several students tested positive for the H1N1 virus.

One chaperon remained with the students who had to be left behind.

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