TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (ABC4 News) – Another Utahn from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan announced he’s tested positive for the coronavirus while quarantined at U.S. Air Force bases.
Mark Jorgensen of St. George is now the third Utahn from the ship who’s contracted COVID-19, more commonly known as the coronavirus. Jorgensen announced Wednesday morning he traveled to Northbay Medical Center for treatment from nearby Travis Air Force base in California. His wife Jerri also tested positive for the virus and has been quarantined at a hospital in Japan.
According to the CDC, Mark is one of more than 36 American passengers from overnight charter flights to U.S. Air Force bases who have now tested positive for the virus. Health officials have recently expressed concern that Japan could have done more to control the outbreak both on the ship and while Americans passengers returned home.
Mark said announced Monday that medical teams took swabs on Friday and he had to wait several days to receive his test results. Jerri said they believed Mark would’ve tested positive first, since he’s had two kidney transplants and is medically vulnerable.
“They do have them back and they’re rolling them out in waves, which I don’t know what to read into that,” Jorgensen said. “I don’t know if that’s a good thing or bad thing.”
Since his positive diagnosis, he and Jerri tell ABC4 News they aren’t experiencing any symptoms, but they will need to test negative twice before they’re able to go home. While Jerri receives test results within 24 hours, Mark’s test results will take at least 5 days to process, since they’ll need to be shipped to Atlanta, Georgia, they said.
“Mark’s doing fine,” Jerri said. “He got settled in around midnight into the local hospital. When he got the news he was positive, he was stunned like I was when I first got my results.”
“This little bump in the road with him testing positive is just a bump in the road, but it’s one we’re absolutely dealing with,” she added.
Once Jerri tests negative twice, she says officials from the Diamond Princess will take her to a hotel near Tokyo, where a charter flight will take her home. Jerri told ABC4 News the earliest she would be able to leave on a flight is March 4.
Amid the criticism of Japanese health officials for their handling of the outbreak both on the ship and during the Americans’ return home, she said she feels she’s being well taken care of.
“For us to even speculate on something that we have no idea about, it would be crazy. I still believe everyone is trying to do the best we can,” Jerri said. “Do I believe this is overblown? Yes, I do. Do I believe this is an overreaction? Yes, I do.”
Jerri’s husband was one of hundreds of American passengers on overnight charter flights from Japan who boarded with at least 14 infected individuals, who stayed in the back of the plane in isolation chambers.
Health officials announced the patients were allowed to board because they weren’t experiencing any symptoms. Mark said he also wasn’t experiencing any symptoms at the time — and hasn’t for weeks — so he sat next to those who also appeared healthy.
New cases of COVID-19 are reported in Croatia, Brazil, and Canada. Now the CDC says it’s not a question of if the virus will spread in the u.S., but a matter of when.
“We are asking the American public to work with us to prepare in the expectation that this could be bad,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the CDC’s director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
While President Trump has insisted the U.S. is prepared in the event of an outbreak, tweeting “The CDC and my administration are doing a great job of handling coronavirus,” lawmakers have said they’re not so sure, expressing concern with the lack of medical masks and fearing the president’s request of $2.5 billion dollars of emergency funds may not be enough.
Officials say a coronavirus vaccine is still at least several months away.
Health officials are urging Americans to be ready to take drastic measures, such closing schools and stores, and ensure that they have all essentials, including medications in case pharmacies are forced to close.