Valencia, California-based Princess Cruises on Thursday evening confirmed that Japanese health officials had diagnosed 44 new positive cases of the deadly COVID-19 virus among people on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship.
The 44 new cases aboard Diamond Princess, which carries more than 3,700 passengers and crew and is now in quarantine at a dock in Yokohama, Japan, bring the ship’s total number of confirmed COVID-19 infections to 219, including the original passenger diagnosed in Hong Kong.
That’s the largest concentration of confirmed cases outside China, where the virus was first identified in the city of Wuhan, in Hubei province, in December.
Diamond Princess passengers KHTS Santa Clarita owners Carl and Jeri Seratti-Goldman and traveling companions Mark and Jerri Larson Jorgensen are still OK, spending their Valentine’s Day in quarantine aboard the ship, she said in a Facebook post on Friday morning Pacific time.
“The crew delivered an iPhone 6 to everyone,” Carl wrote on his Facebook feed also early Friday morning SCV time, after crewmembers had distributed 2,000 new phones. “Didn’t see that coming. It’s pre-loaded with apps to give us easier access to medical and other services. So that’s cool. We also got another chance to walk the deck up top.”
UPDATE: Goldman Traveling Companion Down with Fever
At approximately 7:30 p.m. Friday, or just after noon on Saturday Yokohama time, Mark Jorgensen posted a Facebook video reporting that his wife Jerri had come down with a fever overnight and health officials had ordered her to be taken to the hospital.
In a Facebook video post a couple of hours later, Seratti-Goldman said Jorgensen had been tested for three days earlier, and the fever had come on fast overnight Friday.
By Saturday morning, she felt no better, Seratti-Goldman said. Then health officials “called to say that she had the virus and they were going to pick her up in an hour. Needless to say, we’re heartbroken, and scared.”
A few hours later, Seratti-Goldman reported they were told Jorgensen did NOT have the virus, but that they were going to keep her in quarantine for 14 days.
“We’re very confused,” Seratti-Goldman said, as they await further info from health officials.
Jorgensen’s husband could not go with her to a treatment facility about three hours north, near Fukushima, Seratti-Goldman said.
As of Friday afternoon PT, 771 people now aboard the ship had been tested for COVID-19 by the Japanese Health Ministry, and 218 passengers and crew members had tested positive, NBC reported. Of the 218, at least 32 are Americans. Only 10 of the 218 are considered to be in a “serious condition.” No deaths have been reported among the Diamond Princess passengers and crew.
Over the next several days, Japanese health officials are planning to allow some passengers to leave Diamond Princess and complete their quarantine period at a facility onshore. The 14-day quarantine period is expected to end on February 19.
The most medically vulnerable guests will be allowed to leave first, including older adults with pre-existing health conditions.
According to Japanese health officials, guests in the first group will be tested for the virus. If the test is positive, they will be transported to a local hospital for further evaluation and isolation. If the test is negative, they will be given the option to leave the ship and be taken to a quarantine housing facility.
The onshore quarantine location includes individual rooms and individual bathrooms. The food available will not accommodate dietary preferences but will accommodate certain medical conditions. The meals provided will be Japanese bento-style boxes; no Western meals will be available.
COVID-19 Around the World
As of Friday morning, more than 63,000 cases of COVID-19 had been diagnosed worldwide, with deaths surpassing 1,380, according to the World Health Organization, which renamed the virus, initially called coronavirus, earlier this week.
By early evening Friday, China’s National Health Commission reported an additional 143 deaths nationwide, with the total up to 1,523, as well as 2,641 new cases nationwide, for a total of 66,492. The numbers are expected to continue to rise.
At a Friday news briefing, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-general of the World Health Organization, said he expects a WHO-led mission to China to arrive over the weekend.
The team will include 12 international and WHO experts, Tedros said, as well as the same number of Chinese counterparts, though he did not identify individual members. He said the experts will visit three provinces to observe on-the-ground response efforts, but did not say if the mission will visit the epicenter of the outbreak, the city of Wuhan in Hubei province.
“The goal of the joint mission is to rapidly inform the next steps in the COVID-19 response and preparedness activities in China and globally,” he said.
German-based pharmaceutical company CureVac plans to have its coronavirus vaccine in phase one clinical trials by early summer, company CEO Daniel Menichella said Friday.
“Our technology is very, very fast,” Menichella said. CureVac partnered with the Norwegian Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations to create a vaccine and received an $8 million grant.
COVID-19 in the U.S., California
In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control confirmed the 15th U.S. case of COVID-19 Thursday morning — a recent evacuee from Wuhan who was quarantined at the Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas.
The U.S. evacuated roughly 800 Americans from Wuhan, more than 600 of whom remain under quarantine at military facilities across the nation. The CDC has tested 443 of the evacuees so far, with 15 positive, 347 negative and 81 pending as of Friday midday.
In San Diego, at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, two other evacuees also have tested positive for COVID-19, and a third person is under investigation, UC San Diego health expert Dr. Randy Taplitz said Thursday afternoon. The two patients who tested positive for the virus are under isolation, Taplitz said, adding that they are in “fair condition.”
On Friday morning, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told CNBC that the American public’s risk of getting infected with the virus is “very low,” but that could change “rapidly.”
“We’re deploying the full force of the U.S. government to protect the health and safety of the American people,” said Aazar, who added that people can protect themselves from the virus by washing their hands with soap and water, and not touching their eyes, nose or mouth.
For a timeline of the COVID-19 outbreak, click here.