Health officials warned the State Department not to fly 14 American cruise passengers from the Diamond Princess who tested positive in Japan back to the US alongside healthy passengers, for fear the virus would spread.
The State Department batted aside the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) staunch warnings and flew all 328 evacuees back together on two planes.
Now, 18 of those passengers are positive for the deadly coronavirus that’s killed 2,250 people worldwide, CDC officials confirmed Friday.
Sources involved in the decision told the Washington Post that CDC staunchly warned the State Department against transporting infected and uninfected people side-by-side, but were ultimately overruled.
‘It was like the worst nightmare,’ said a senior US official involved in the decision, who spoke to the Post on the condition of anonymity.
‘Quite frankly, the alternative could have been pulling grandma out in the pouring rain, and that would have been bad, too.’
Now, those 328 passengers are all back on US soil after spending more than two weeks on the cruise ship that’s become the most densely infected place in the world outside China.
Asked about the conflict between the two agencies during a Friday press briefing, CDC spokesperson Nancy Messonnier punted curtly to the State Department.
‘It’s important to remember this was an emerging and unusual circumstance,’ said Ian Brownlee, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Consular Affairs.
‘We had 328 people on buses, a plan to execute and we received lab results on people who were otherwise asymptomatic, un-ill people on a bus on the way to the airport.
‘The people on the ground did exactly the right thing…in bringing them home.’
People who had tested positive were put into isolation units on board the two cargo planes, which then flew to Joint Base San Antonio – Lackland in Texas and Travis Air Base in California.
Although officials reassured the press that the sick passengers were thoroughly contained and every precaution had been taken to ensure the safety of the healthy people onboard, reports later emerged that people on the flights had no idea they were sharing yet another even more confined space with infected individuals.
When the planes landed at their respective destinations late Sunday night, six ‘high risk’ passengers from Lackland and seven from Travis were ushered onto an additional flight to Omaha Eppley Airfield in Nebraska.
Eleven of the 13 American passengers evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan who were deemed ‘high risk’ for coronavirus have been confirmed to have the infection that’s spread to nearly 77,000 people around the world.
Twelve of those 13 passengers were being held at the National Quarantine Center in Omaha, Nebraska, while one was transferred immediately to the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit because they had developed symptoms of the virus and had an underlying condition.
All 11 new cases were confirmed Thursday by the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), while the other two passengers at UNMC tested negative.
Meanwhile, 16 of the more than 300 other evacuees from the ship who were symptom-free and quarantined at Travis Air Force Base have now developed signs of the virus and been transferred to hospitals where they can be isolated, monitored and treated.
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Source: Daily Mail