Coronavirus: Infected cruise ship passengers getting care in Nebraska, not California

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The American passengers diagnosed with coronavirus infection who were evacuated from a Japanese cruise ship are getting specialized care at a Nebraska hospital and are not part of the large quarantine at Fairfield’s Travis Air Force Base, military officials said Monday.

Those 13 individuals — among the 328 U.S. passengers of the Diamond Princess cruise ship, docked in Yokohama, Japan – were flown to the 20-bed National Quarantine Unit at the University of Nebraska Medical Center Medicine. So far, they are showing only mild symptoms of the disease. One sicker person is getting a higher level of care at the hospital’s Biocontainment Unit, which cared for Ebola patients in 2014.

Meanwhile, 170 healthy passengers remain in a hotel at Travis Air Force Base, where they are being monitored by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for 14 days, the duration of the virus’s incubation period.

“None of the passengers currently on the installation have tested positive for (coronavirus) or are symptomatic,” Travis officials said in a statement Monday. “If any passenger displays symptoms, they will be transported to an off-base hospital for containment and specialized care.”

U.S. health officials considered it unsafe to leave Americans on the ship, docked in Yokohama, Japan, and flew them on two cargo planes to the United States on Sunday night to Fairfield and Joint Base San Antonio in Texas.

The cruise suffered an outbreak after the virus was diagnosed in a man who had disembarked days earlier in Hong Kong.

After consultations with health experts, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control decided to let the infected evacuees, who had not yet shown symptoms, board the cargo jets to Travis Air Force Base and Joint Base San Antonio in Texas.

Because they were all asymptomatic, health authorities deemed them “fit to fly,” the State Department and the Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement Monday.

Passengers reported on social media that the infected passengers

A chartered flight carrying the Americans landed around 11:30 p.m., according to the Travis spokesman.

Their arrival doubles the number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus disease, named COVID-19, in the U.S. There are now 29 cases, up from 15.

While this disease has been more infectious than the SARS outbreak in 2003, it has been far less lethal. Our experts estimate a fatality rate between one and two percent for COVID-19, with the majority of the fatalities being in people with other medical conditions.

The infected Americans arrived at a remote and isolated aircraft parking area at Omaha’s Eppley Airfield and did not enter the terminal. They boarded a bus and were driven straight to the National Quarantine Unit.

“We were there for Ebola, we were there for the rescued Americans now being monitored at Camp Ashland and we’re going to be there for these American citizens as well,” said Dr. Jeffrey P. Gold, chancellor of the University of Nebraska Medical Center and University of Nebraska at Omaha

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