YOKOHAMA, Japan – A second Utah couple aboard the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan said they’re trying to stay optimistic as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases continues to rise.
Two more passengers tested positive for virus Saturday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases among the more than 3,600 passengers and crew members to 64.
Tooele County couple John and Melanie Haering had already spent 29 days aboard the ship when the quarantine began. They said they’re staying positive but were concerned the number of cases will go up.
Like the Jorgensens from St. George, Saturday was the fifth day the Haerings spent quarantined in their room.
“We have a balcony, so we are able to get fresh air,” Jerri Jorgensen said.
But unlike the Jorgensens, the Haerings are confined to a windowless room below deck.
“We have no windows. We’re in a box,” said John Haering, explaining that it’s becoming harder for them to keep track of time without any sunlight.
Both couples said they have only spent about an hour on deck since the quarantine began.
“People tell us, ‘Why don’t you just get off that ship?’ and we told them, ‘We don’t have an option. We aren’t free to go,'” Haering said. “We are tied down to this room. They have security from the Japanese authorities that will make sure that we stay in here.”
While both couples were staying optimistic, they expressed some concerns Saturday.
“We don’t know why we haven’t been swabbed,” Melanie Haering said. “Even though we don’t have symptoms, we should be swabbed.”
The Haerings said only a small fraction of the passengers on board the ship have been swabbed for the coronavirus. The couple said passengers have a thermometer, and if they get a fever they have to self-report.
Our global team is working tirelessly to continue supporting #DiamondPrincess guests and crew during this challenging time. As onboard needs continue to evolve, here’s an update on our current priorities. We will continue to provide updates as available: https://t.co/UBg4pIrrYIpic.twitter.com/IBSvpay7lD— Princess Cruises (@PrincessCruises) February 9, 2020
“Sixty-four people have tested positive out of 299 swabs, so there could logically be a lot more people who are infected on this ship,” John Haering said. “We’ve offered to pay — we will pay because we want to know.”
“They say you can even carry it and not have symptoms,” Melanie Haering said.
The Haerings were especially concerned because they spent time in Hong Kong and were on the ship with the very first passenger to have the virus.
“We think we’re fine, but it would be nice to know that, ‘Hey, they took a swab and you’re OK,’” John Haering said.
"We don't know why we haven't been swabbed. Even though we don't have symptoms, they should swab everybody"-Melanie Haering. We're hearing from a 2nd #Utah couple on the #DiamondPrincess in #Japan. They say they haven't been tested for #coronavirus... Story @KSL5TVpic.twitter.com/z39XACtoAD— Garna Mejia KSL (@GarnaMejiaKSL) February 9, 2020
Both couples said about 60 doctors and 200 nurses have been added to the medical staff, and cruise officials have also opened a 24-hour hotline to offer counseling services.
The Jorgensens said they received an email from the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo saying they will be able to get off the ship after the 14-day quarantine and fly back to the states.
“Per current information from the Government of Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare, after passengers finish their 14-day quarantine period they will be permitted to depart Japan on commercial flights, which are readily available, and will not be subject to additional quarantine upon return to the United States,” according to a statement from the State Department.