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U.S. State Department will evacuate Americans from quarantined cruise ship Sunday

Cruise ship quarantined in Japan
Posted at 2:31 AM, Feb 16, 2020

Americans on board the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship will have to undergo another 14-day quarantine in America before returning home.

The United States State Department will evacuate Americans on Sunday, February 16, at 10 p.m. Tokyo time (6 a.m. local time), flying them to Travis Air Force Base in California.

According to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, passengers will be screened for symptoms of coronavirus, now referred to as CODVID-19, before boarding a U.S. Chartered flight. Passengers will then either stay at Travis Air Force Base or be transferred to Lackland Air Force Base for a 14-day quarantine.

"We recognize this has been a stressful experience and we remain dedicated to providing all the support we can and seeing you safely and expeditiously reunited with family and friends in the United States," wrote the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.

"This is a dynamic situation. We are deeply grateful to the cruise line and government of Japan for working diligently to contain and control the spread of the illness."

Bob Dixon, who is currently on the cruise ship, said he was happy at first when hearing he'll be leaving the Diamond Princess before learning he'll be stuck in another quarantine in the United States.

"When they told us that we would have to go back into another 14 days of quarantine, that was kind of disheartening," said Dixon. "I understand the situation, they just can't get this going in the united states. If that's what it takes, that what it takes."

Dixon, who left Arizona for the two-week cruise on January 15, will not be able to return home until after March 4.

During their extended stay under quarantine, Dixon and his family have been looking for ways to kill time in their rooms, including creating a "Trump 2020" banner with bed sheets and bingo markers, displaying their handiwork over the side of the ship.

It's hard to burn up 24 hours a day when you're not just sleeping," said Dixon.

Passengers who elect to not board a U.S. Charter flight are unable to return to the United States for a period of time, determined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"The U.S. government’s top priority is the welfare and safety of U.S. citizens. The U.S. Embassy has been in continual contact with you since the quarantine began in Japan, and U.S. health experts have been working closely with Carnival Cruise Lines and the government of Japan to assess the unique circumstances on the Diamond Princess. We recognize this has been a stressful experience and we remain dedicated to providing all the support we can and seeing you safely and expeditiously reunited with family and friends in the United States," according to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.

"It just makes me feel like we've been imprisoned on this ship," said Sommer Gunia, a surgeon at Comprehensive Breast Center of Arizona. She estimates that due to a month's worth of canceling surgeries and patient visits, she will have lost about $75,000 for her private practice during the more than a month she is away. "We were four days, literally, away from getting off this boat."