CHIBA, Japan (ABC4 News) – It’s been one week since Tooele resident John Haering was placed under isolated quarantine at the Chiba University Hospital in Japan after testing positive for COVID-19, more commonly known as the coronavirus. In that time, he said there’s been no communication from officials at the U.S. embassy in Japan and now, he’s pleading for answers.
In a letter posted on social media by John’s wife, Melanie, he said the Princess Cruise line, owned by Carnival Corporation has been silent since he was taken off the Diamond Princess ship last Wednesday and messages from his family to the embassy have not been returned.
“I’m a U.S. citizen who should have some rights and I don’t think it is too much to ask for some communication from the U.S. embassy in Japan or from the cruise line I entrusted with my safety and the safety of my wife,” he wrote.
The U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Japan said instructions had been sent out to all individuals who had tested positive for the coronavirus on Thursday, but John said he had not received any correspondence.
“Is this how we are going to treat those infected on your cruise ship? I’m not impressed. I’m not going to sit and be thrown to a hospital, with no notification to my family,” he wrote.
He added, “My wife and I have e-mail, phones, and can receive text. Yet for some reason, no one cares to let us know our fate here in the hospital. I have, as my doctor described it, bad pneumonia. I’m fighting each day to stay positive and healthy. I don’t need the uncertainty of what will happen to me weighing on my thoughts. Please, I beg you. Make sure you communicate.”
Some of the questions John posed in his letter included, “What is the process for getting out of the hospital I was forced into? Why have I not heard from the Carnival Corporation ever since leaving the ship? If I had complications or died in the hospital, who would contact my wife in the case of an emergency? What is my responsibility towards the financial obligation to the hospital I’m staying with? What, if any, are the restrictions placed on me for returning to America?”
John and Melanie were separated on the 13th during their nearly two-week quarantine aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship. The couple originally planned for a six-month retirement trip around the world when their ship’s itinerary was abruptly halted on February 4th as the first passenger on-board tested positive for the virus.
John then began exhibiting flu-like symptoms more than a week and a half ago. Three days after, the ship’s medical crews transported him to Chiba University Hospital, where he tested positive for the coronavirus.
Since then, he’s been placed in isolated quarantine. Melanie said he won’t be discharged from the hospital until he can test negative two days in a row and now, their concerns have heightened as doctors have diagnosed him with pneumonia. On Thursday, she said John’s swab and saliva tests returned positive. His next CT scan for his chest is scheduled for Monday.
The U.S. said it arranged for an evacuation over the weekend of its citizens aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship because of high exposure risk.
Melanie joined approximately 340 out of 380 Americans on the ship who opted to fly back to Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, California for the second round of a 14-day quarantine. She landed Monday. Passengers also had the option to fly to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. She is still waiting to be tested for the coronavirus.
Megan Hoffman, Melanie’s daughter and John’s stepdaughter wrote on Facebook, “Although I have so much faith and hope that everything will be fine and work out, […] I am still so scared and filled with constant worry. There is so little I can do. I feel helpless.”
A spokesperson for U.S. Congressman Chris Stewart told ABC4 News said he has reached out to the U.S. Embassy in Japan to ask them to communicate with John and whether he can be transferred back to the U.S. to receive the best medical care possible. They said Stewart is in direct contact with the Haering family and is monitoring the situation closely.
An official with the U.S. Department of State sent the following statement to ABC4 News:
“The welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad is one of the highest priorities of the Department of State, and we are prepared to provide all appropriate consular assistance to U.S. citizens remaining in Japan.
This includes U.S. Embassy Tokyo consular officers visiting U.S. citizens who have been hospitalized from the Diamond Princess. Due to privacy considerations, we do not comment on individual cases.
We are also providing regular updates on social media, and U.S. citizens on-board the ship, or their families, can contact us at a dedicated e-mail address: USGShipContact@state.gov. The embassy also launched an “Updates on Diamond Princess Quarantine” webpage with links to key information on CDC guidance.”
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