PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A Forest Grove couple is among thousands of people currently being quarantined between two cruise ships off the coast of Hong Kong and Japan.
This comes with concerns that some passengers infected with the Wuhan coronavirus have exposed others on board. KOIN 6 News spoke with two of the passengers from Forest Grove on Thursday morning. They’re on the “Diamond Princess” which is moored off Japan. Officials originally said it has 20 confirmed cases of the coronavirus.
Late Thursday US time, Japan reported 41 new cases of a virus on a cruise ship that’s been quarantined in Yokohama harbor while the death toll in mainland China rose to 636, including a doctor who got in trouble with authorities in the communist country for sounding an early warning about the disease threat.
Two docked cruise ships with thousands of passengers and crew members remained under 14-day quarantines in Hong Kong and Japan.
Before Friday’s 41 confirmed cases, 20 passengers who were found infected with the virus were escorted off the Diamond Princess at Yokohama near Tokyo. About 3,700 people have been confined aboard the ship.
“We’ve had to cancel our plans and we don’t know if the government has plans for us when we get back to the U.S.,” said Kent and Rebecca Frasure. “It’s a really big unknown.”
The Frasures said they left on their 15-day cruise through Asia three weeks ago when the coronavirus hadn’t yet become a major international issue.
“It wasn’t very widespread at that point so it wasn’t really on my mind at all,” said Rebecca.
But the situation quickly changed.
“A couple days ago, we were ordered back to our rooms at 6 a.m. and then at 8 that morning they announced the ship was going to be quartered for 14 days,” Rebecca said.
Before going into quarantine, the couple had their temperatures taken and their throats swabbed to rule out illness.
“It is hard to know for sure what passengers did get sick, even if it was just in casual contact,” Kent said.
The experience is far from how the Frasures imagined spending the end of their vacation: even getting food has become complicated.
“They don’t come into the stateroom or anything,” Rebecca said. “When you are finished you just set the empty dishes outside of your stateroom.”
Kent said workers are also wearing masks and gloves and avoid any direct contact.
The abundance of precaution is due to the uncertainty surrounding the number of people who could be infected on the ship.
“That’s why holding people in quarantine during the course of an incubation period is the way that we can make sure that people who may become ill don’t become ill when they are walking around the community,” said infectious disease expert Dr. James Lawler.
For the Frasures, what happens next after the quarantine is over is unclear.
“We have had to cancel our travel plans for our flights and we don’t know what the U.S. government has planned for us when we get to the U.S. — it’s a really big unknown,” Kent said.
The coronavirus has infected more than 20,000 people in mainland China. Here in the U.S., there are at least a dozen confirmed cases.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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