On Monday, the U.S. flew in more than 300 Americans after they spent almost two weeks stuck on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which had seen hundreds of its passengers test positive for COVID-19, the official name for the coronavirus. However, among the people that came back to the U.S. were 14 passengers that tested positive for the coronavirus, an unexpected turn of events.
The passengers’ arrival practically doubles the cases of confirmed coronavirus in the U.S., from 15 to 29. The infected individuals, who are not showing symptoms of the coronavirus such as sore throats or coughing, are being treated and monitored at the University of Nebraska in Omaha and at hospitals near the Travis Air Force Base in California, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Americans who were repatriated to the U.S. and tested negative will have to wait in quarantine for two weeks, which is the believed incubation period for the virus.
Originally, the U.S. said that no cruise passengers that tested positive for the virus would be allowed on the flights back to the country. Nonetheless, the government’s plans were compromised when it was informed on the way to the airport that 14 of the more than 300 passengers it was transporting had tested positive for the virus.
Passengers had been tested for the virus by Japanese experts two or three days before the scheduled repatriation. Per the New York Times, U.S. medical experts examined passengers on the cruise ship and determined that at least 328 could be evacuated. At that time, the U.S. did not have the test results for all of the passengers it planned to take back to the country. However, it continued with the repatriation because it determined that it did not know when the results would come in, specifically saying that it was “unpredictable.”
As of Monday, the Japanese government announced that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases on the Diamond Princess cruise ship had risen to 454.
In a last-minute decision, the U.S. decided to take the 14 infected passengers back home. Authorities separated them from the other passengers on the plane and isolated them. In a joint statement released by the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the government said that medical professionals closely monitored all passengers on the flight.
“Every precaution to ensure proper isolation and community protection measures are being taken, driven by the most up-to-date risk assessments by U.S. health authorities,” the departments said. “We continue all possible efforts to protect the welfare of U.S. citizens.”
The New York Times reported that at least 55 Americans on the ship had coronavirus. Many of them are being treated in hospitals in Japan.
In its Feb. 17 Situation Report, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that there were 71,429 global cases of coronavirus, 70,635 of which were in China. There have been 1,775 deaths.