Utahn aboard quarantined cruise ship tests positive for coronavirus

Local News

UPDATE 2/16/2020: Melanie posted an update on social media that she will be returning to the U.S. for another 14-days quarantine while John remains in the hospital in Yokohama, Japan. If he tests negative twice in a row for the coronavirus this week, he will be discharged from the hospital.

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YOKOHAMA, Japan (ABC4 News) – It’s not the way Tooele resident Melanie Haering expected to spend Valentine’s Day this year, alone and separated from her husband, John.

Melanie and John originally planned to spend six months traveling the world to celebrate retirement. But their plans came to an abrupt halt on February 4th, two months into their vacation. On the night their Diamond Princess cruise ship arrived at Yokohama, Japanese health officials began conducting medical checks on all of the ship’s passengers and crews after one previous passenger tested positive for the virus.

The U.S.-operated Diamond Princess had completed a 14-day tour during which it stopped at Hong Kong and several other Asian ports before returning to Japan. An 80-year-old man who disembarked in Hong Kong tested positive for the virus, prompting Hong Kong government officials to notify the ship and Japanese authorities.

Officials ordered a two-week quarantine for the approximate 3,700 passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship. Since then, medical personnel have recorded more than 200 cases aboard.

Then on Sunday, Melanie said John began exhibiting flu-like symptoms that included a fever, nausea, and a rash.

“His fever kept going up and down. It was miserable for him. The fever would break and then he would get chills again. I called the line for medical staff, but no one came until the next day because they were swamped with getting the 60 new cases of coronavirus off the ship,” said Melanie. “We met with three different sets of doctors over the period of two days. I asked them to swab him at the time, but they didn’t. I think it was because of the language barrier.”

John began feeling better on Wednesday, but health officials didn’t want to take the chance. Japanese medical personnel instructed him to disembark the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked without his wife. The day after, he tested positive for the coronavirus and has been in isolated quarantine at a local Japanese hospital ever since.

“It’s been hard for me, watching someone I care about that’s so strong go through that. But I’m being strong for someone else,” said Melanie. “He’s normally not on any medication. He’s 63 years old but very athletic and never gets sick.”

Although they’ve traveled to multiple countries in Asia through the cruise, she said she believes John contracted the coronavirus on the ship.

“There was a lot of crew members who tested positive. You’re in the dining area, you go to the shows, you go upstairs to the buffet, and you go to the events they have. You don’t know who has and hasn’t been infected with it,” said Melanie.

She said there’s currently no treatment for John and it will be a waiting game until the virus subsides. John will get tested again on Monday and if his results return negative twice in a row, he can be discharged.

“Our son and his wife have arranged for cases of water, toothpaste, shampoo, and soap to be dropped off by the local LDS mission president. He has only been given tea and he has to purchase his own water and toiletries,” she said.

Despite the circumstances, Melanie said she’s remaining optimistic.

“This is just a bump in the road, really. I feel confident he’ll get over this and then we’ll be on our way,” she said. “He’s told me that once we’re clear, he wants to continue our trip. We’ll probably end going to Australia.”

Melanie anticipates being tested for coronavirus in the next few days, since she’s had constant close contact with John. The Diamond Princess ship’s quarantine is scheduled to end on the 19th, but if John is not discharged by then, Melanie said she will remain on the ship or stay at a hotel for the time being.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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