Cruise Ship Evacuees to be Quarantined for 2 Weeks

Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield is the new, temporary home to another group of evacuees from the coronavirus outbreak in Asia.

A plane carrying American residents evacuated from a cruise ship in Japan was to arrive at the base late Sunday night.

Passengers from the ship, the Diamond Princess, will be quarantined for two weeks at an on-base hotel, a representative of the base told The Chronicle, and they will be kept away from a group of evacuees from China who are already at the base and being monitored for the COVID-19 illness.

Staff members of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services “will follow their standing protocols to screen and monitor all passengers before, during, and after the flight,” according to a statement from the base. Anyone who shows symptoms of the virus will be moved to “an off-base facility,” the statement said.

The two agencies are in charge of the quarantine, and no “Travis Airmen” are expected to have physical contact with the evacuees, the statement said.

About 380 Americans were passengers on the Diamond Princess, and 340 of them left Japan on Sunday, according to that country’s defense ministry. A second flight took some of the evacuees to Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio.

The cruise ship has been quarantined in the port of Yokohama, near Tokyo, for almost two weeks. Japanese officials said everyone left on the ship will be released from quarantine Wednesday, but the New York Times reported that American passengers who stayed will not be allowed to re-enter the United States until March 4, two weeks after leaving the ship.

At least 40 Americans on the ship have tested positive for the coronavirus. A total of 355 cases have been confirmed on the ship. About 3,700 people were on the ship when it was first placed under quarantine.

Globally, the new coronavirus has sickened more than 71,000 people and killed 1,775, all but five of them in mainland China.

Sarah Arana, a California passenger on the Diamond Princess, said in a public Facebook post that she was visited by American doctors in white hazmat suits before going to the plane that would take her to the United States. The doctors could not touch or be near Arana, she wrote.

“When I heard their voices though, the sound of those familiar American voices, it was immediately comforting,” she said in the post.

Arana wrote that she was told to dress warmly for the long flight on a repurposed cargo plane chartered by the U.S. Department of State.

“Everyone here is pretty emotional not knowing exactly what to expect tomorrow,” Arana said in the post. “Another day another journey. Here I go again.”

A passenger on one of the planes told the Times that some on her plane had tested positive for the virus but did not have symptoms, and they were segregated in a tented area.

Passengers who did show symptoms would not be allowed to board a flight home, the CDC said in a statement.

Matthew Smith, an American passenger on the ship, said on Twitter early Sunday that a fleet of buses came to take Americans from the Diamond Princess to their flights to the United States. He said an American passenger was standing on her balcony, chanting “U.S.A., U.S.A.”

Smith said the woman was not wearing a face mask and was standing “well within 6 feet” of another passenger on an adjacent balcony.

“If there are secondary infections on board, this is why,” Smith said. “And you wanted me to get on a bus with her?”

Smith said he and his wife decided to stay on the ship.

“We did not want to break the quarantine established by Japanese authorities and be put on a coach and a plane with others who have not been quarantined for 2 weeks and tested negative,” he explained to a reporter on Twitter. “We figured the Japanese will release us next week, and we can then spend 2 weeks in Tokyo.”

This article is written by J.D. Morris from San Francisco Chronicle and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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