Updated Feb 17, 2020 - Health

Cruise ship evacuations: More Americans test positive for coronavirus

A bus carrying American citizens from the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship arrives at the U.S. government-chartered aircraft that is taking them back to the United States while authorities wear protective suits look on at Haneda airport in Tokyo on Monday. Photo: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

Another 14 passengers tested positive for the novel coronavirus during their evacuation from the Diamond Princess cruise ship before being flown in a "specialist containment" area of the plane to the United States, per a U.S. government statement early Monday.

Details: Over 40 Americans who had been on the ship had previously been confirmed as infected and will remain in Japanese hospitals for treatment, NIAID director Anthony Fauci told "Face the Nation" Sunday. The rest were evacuated, and these latest cases were among them. All evacuees will undergo a 14-day quarantine upon arrival Monday morning.

  • The CDC reports that more than 100 U.S. citizens are still onboard the cruise ship or in hospitals in Japan.

What they're saying: "During the evacuation process, after passengers had disembarked the ship and initiated transport to the airport, U.S. officials received notice that 14 passengers, who had been tested 2-3 days earlier, had tested positive for COVID-19," the joint statement by the U.S. Departments of State, and Health and Human Services said. 

"After consultation with HHS officials, including experts from the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, the State Department made the decision to allow the 14 individuals, who were in isolation, separated from other passengers, and continued to be asymptomatic, to remain on the aircraft to complete the evacuation process. 
During the flights, these individuals will continue to be isolated from the other passengers. ... All passengers are being closely monitored by medical professionals throughout the flight, and any who become symptomatic will be moved to the specialized containment area, where they will be treated." 
— U.S. government statement

The state of play: Americans flown from the ship on the State Department-chartered flight will undergo 14-day federal quarantines at the Travis Air Force Base in California or the Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas, per a CDC statement.

  • Passengers repatriated to Canada will also undergo a 14-day period of quarantine in the country, the Canadian government said in a statement.

By the numbers: 454 of the now-1,723 people on the Diamond Princess have tested positive for the virus, the Japanese health ministry said in a statement Monday.

Background: The Japanese government announced Thursday that certain groups of passengers aboard the ship could "voluntarily disembark" and be quarantined in government facilities. Passengers older than 80 with pre-existing health conditions have priority to exit the vessel.

  • Princess Cruises had said in a previous statement that nine of the first 10 patients hospitalized from the ship were guests — one from the U.S., two Australians, three Japanese people and three from Hong Kong. A Filipino crew member also tested positive.
  • The nationalities of the latest cases have yet to be released, but half of those on board were visitors from Japan, per Princess Cruises. The ship arrived at Yokohama Port on Feb. 3. Most have already been hospitalised.
  • A quarantine officer is among those infected, the ministry said.

The big picture: A guest from Hong Kong sailed from Yokohama on Jan. 20 before disembarking back home on Jan. 25, Princess Cruises said. He showed no symptoms aboard the ship, but tested positive for coronavirus in a Hong Kong hospital six days later.

  • Malaysia has now barred all cruise ships from its ports and the remaining passengers aboard the Westerdam cruise ship, where an American woman tested positive for coronavirus, are not welcome in the country, officials said Monday.
  • Royal Caribbean and Norwegian cruise lines say they will prohibit all travelers with passports from Hong Kong, China or Macao from boarding their ships at least through February, per the the Los Angeles Times.

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Editor's note: This article has been updated with more details throughout.

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