COVID-2019 progresses into new lands as quarantined ship deboards

As the novel coronavirus reaches two months in its tenure, the area of effect has steadily grown. Currently, as the disease has spread and cases have been retroactively diagnosed, 79,570 cases have been reported and 2,629 have died as a result. 25,227 have recovered from the disease. The disease is now present in significant numbers in South Korea, Italy, and Japan.

As for the source of the virus, some new information has been discovered since its initial elusion. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), COVID-2019 “is a betacoronavirus,” like other related diseases responsible for recent outbreaks like SARS. “All of these viruses have their origins in bats… sequences from U.S. patients are similar to the one that China initially posted, suggesting a likely single, recent emergence of this virus from an animal reservoir.”

The outbreak in Wuhan, China was connected to the large food market there, known for its sale of exotic live animals and seafoods. Following these initial infections, patients reported never having been exposed to such markets, which, according to the CDC, is “indicating person-to-person spread.” Additionally, consistent person-to-person spread has been confirmed by Chinese officials.

In the U.S., there are currently 53 cases, zero deaths, and five recoveries. Appropriately, the CDC reports that “this virus is NOT currently spreading in the community in the United States.”

Notably, Diamond Princess, a cruise ship moored on the coast of Japan, has been a hotbed of cases at 691. The ship of 3,711 was quarantined by Japanese officials, a measure largely regarded to have failed, with case numbers beginning at 10 on Feb. 4. Passengers are reported to have felt imprisoned and confined, especially in the sample of rooms without balconies and windows. Four people on the ship have died, all of whom were in their 80s. By Feb. 19, the last of the passengers on board disembarked.

For the Americans on board the ship, two flights chartered by the State Department were set to transport them from Japan back home. Contentiously, the flight contained 14 infected Americans isolated in special boxes, separate from the rest of the passengers. These passengers tested positive for the virus after the flight arrangements were made, forcing officials into these measures. They showed no symptoms despite their testing positive.

This sparked debate between the CDC and the State Department, who were stuck between deboarding those infected while the plane was on the tarmac, ready to take off. The State Department, despite the President’s take, pushed the passengers through while the CDC maintained that boarding the healthy with the sick would be a bad idea epidemiologically.

Reported by the Washington Post, a senior U.S. health official explained the dilemma as such: “It was like the worst nightmare… Quite frankly, the alternative could have been pulling grandma out in the pouring rain, and that would have been bad too.”

Following the landing of the planes, 26 other Americans that flew home tested positive for the virus, suggesting the CDC was rightly concerned. These infections mark a significant portion of the American cases.

The two aircraft landed at Travis Airforce Base in California, and the other at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, locations from which those infected were taken to hospitals.

Diamond Princess is  scheduled by Princess Cruises to be back in commission April 29 after it is fully sanitized and dry docked for some time.