Hundreds of Americans from virus-hit cruise ship flown back to U.S.

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Two planes carrying hundreds of Americans taken off a quarantined cruise ship in Japan arrived at U.S. military bases overnight. The first touched down at Travis Air Force Base in California and the other landed several hours later in Texas. “A select number of high-risk passengers” were then flown to Omaha, Nebraska, according to the State Department. The planes brought evacuees from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which remains quarantined after an outbreak on board of the deadly new coronavirus.

Japan’s Defense Minister tweeted early Monday that Japanese troops had helped move about 340 U.S. nationals from the ship at Yokahama port to Tokyo’s Haneda airport to board the flights.  

The U.S. government confirmed at least 14 Americans on the U.S.-government chartered planes had tested positive for the new COVID-19 disease just before departing Japan, nearly doubling the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. There were kept in isolation during the long flight home and were taken for treatment upon arrival. All the other passengers — who have already spent almost two weeks quarantined on the ship — were facing another two-week quarantine in the United States.

Flight Evacuating American Cruise Ship Passengers Exposed To Coronavirus In Japan Arrives In US
American evacuees from the Diamond Princess cruise ship board buses at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland on February 17, 2020 in San Antonio, Texas. Edward A. Ornelas/Getty

Japanese officials said Monday that 99 more infections were confirmed on the Diamond Princess, which is owned by Florida-based Carnival Corp. Hundreds of others on board had already been diagnosed with the virus.

There’s also concern about the more than 2,000 passengers and crew members who were aboard the cruise ship Westerdam, which was allowed to dock in Cambodia after it was refused by a number of other countries. At the time, no one on the ship was believed to have coronavirus — but an American woman who had been a passenger has since tested positive. 

Additionally, health officials in Hawaii are tracing the contacts of a Japanese couple who vacationed in Maui and Honolulu in late January and early February. Both have been diagnosed with coronavirus since returning home.

As of Monday, the global death toll hit at least 1,873, and the number of confirmed cases rose to more than 73,000. Those totals include cases that were confirmed in a lab and cases that were confirmed clinically. The WHO decided Monday to include the clinically confirmed cases, which are slightly less certain, in the totals.

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