Coronavirus has continued to spread among the passengers and crew of the quarantined Princess Cruises’ ship, Diamond Princess, which remains docked at the port in Yokohama, Japan. As of Tuesday, 542 cases of the virus have been identified among the 3,711 quarantined passengers and crew, making the ship the site of the most infections outside of China.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, told the USA TODAY Editorial Board and reporters Monday that the original idea to keep people safely quarantined on the ship wasn’t unreasonable. But even with the quarantine process on the ship, virus transmission still occurred.
“The quarantine process failed,” Fauci said. “I’d like to sugarcoat it and try to be diplomatic about it, but it failed. People were getting infected on that ship. Something went awry in the process of the quarantining on that ship. I don’t know what it was, but a lot of people got infected on that ship.”
And as the Diamond Princess cruise ship approaches the end of its coronavirus quarantine Feb. 19, some Americans have already departed the ship.
Two planes took a total 328 people to military bases in California and Texas Sunday; 14 of the evacuees were allowed to fly back to the United States despite testing positive for coronavirus, the U.S. State Department and Health and Human Services said in a joint statement.
Thirteen high-risk passengers have since been transferred to the National Quarantine Center at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. One was transferred to the biocontainment facility due to symptoms and a pre-existing chronic condition that would make him more vulnerable should he contract the virus.
Those who came back to the U.S. a couple of days ahead of the end of the ship’s quarantine will have to restart the clock on a new 14-day quarantine.
The Princess Cruises ship was carrying 2,666 guests and 1,045 crew when it set sail and was quarantined after 10 cases of coronavirus were reported Feb. 4. About 380 Americans were on the cruise ship, and some chose not to end the quarantine early.
José Andrés arrives in Japan to feed quarantined passengers
Andrés, a James Beard Award-winning chef credited with popularizing tapas in the United States, founded the organization in 2010 in response to the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti. Since then, WCK continues to assist those in need around the world.
“Just doing our small part to assist during this difficult time. @WCKitchen will be there working side by side with everyone on the ground as long as we are needed,” Andrés tweeted Monday, adding the hashtag “#HanginthereDiamondPrincess.”
Beginning with lunch Tuesday, Andrés’ crew prepared food off-site and used a forklift to load food into cruise ship to help alleviate the workload for Diamond Princess crew members who “just have to distribute the food – they don’t have to make the food,” WCK field operations director Sam Bloch said in a video update.
Princess Cruises announced in an update that WCK meals will be “integrated” into food service options for passengers for breakfast, lunch and dinner, “accommodating all dietary requirements.”
Andrés’ team frequently transports itself to locations struggling through crises, offering quality meals to those struggling. In 2017, the WCK headed to Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, where volunteers served 3.7 million meals. Last January, Andrés stationed a kitchen in Washington, D.C., to feed federal employees out of work during the government shutdown. More recently, the team has been in Australia helping bushfire victims.
“Definitely a different situation here,” Bloch added. “We’ve really just been in support of the cruise line and the different agencies that have the really hard job and decisions ahead of them. It’s definitely a different situation for us. But then again, every disaster, every immigration crisis, every situation that we address is a unique and different situation. Every one has its own challenges that we are able to quickly adapt (to) and figure out.”
Westerdam passengers back in limbo
Meanwhile, some passengers who had disembarked Holland America’s MS Westerdam in Cambodia Friday were still stuck in limbo.
According to Holland America Line, an 83-year-old American woman who departed from Westerdam on Friday later reported feeling ill at the airport in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and tested positive for coronavirus, according to a release from the cruise line shared with USA TODAY by Buck Banks.
Dr. William Walters, the director of operational medicine at the U.S. State Department, told reporters Monday afternoon that 260 American citizens remain in hotels in Cambodia pending onward travel, and 92 more are on board the MS Westerdam. Around 300 Americans left Cambodia after testing under their ministry of health.
Holland America said that as of Monday 255 passengers and 747 crew members remained on the MS Westerdam, which is docked in Sihanoukville, Cambodia. The cruise ship, which didn’t have any cases of coronavirus reported during the voyage, had been turned away from multiple ports.
As of Tuesday morning, over 73,336 people have contracted coronavirus worldwide and 1,874 have died, according to Johns Hopkins data.
Contributing: The Associated Press