Paso Robles woman in quarantine aboard cruise ship after coronavirus outbreak

Posted at 11:58 PM, Feb 10, 2020

For the more than 2,000 passengers aboard the Diamond Princess Cruise ship in Japan, their vacations have ended but now they're not allowed to get off the ship.

An outbreak of the coronavirus has infected more than 130 people and one of those passengers stuck on the ship is from the Central Coast.

Paso Robles resident Sarah Arana does not have the virus but she is not able to leave her room, aside from going out on her deck.

Health experts say this is essentially a "best case scenario," as keeping people on the ship means less of chance of them infecting other communities around the world.

This trip aboard the Diamond Princess was Arana's first time on a cruise.

"This cruise was a Lunar New Year cruise and I was excited to experience [it]," Arana said.

But once the trip was coming to an end, she says her vacation turned into "something out of a science fiction movie."

"We finished the cruise and it wasn't identified 'til we got to back Okinawa, which was the next to the last stop, that there had been a confirmed case of coronavirus on the ship," she said.

Arana says she has now been in quarantine for seven days, finding out through the media that an additional 66 people tested positive for coronavirus on the ship Monday.

"We were the last to know [and] that part is frustrating when I have friends here on the ship whose kids are in California, and they're hearing it on the news before we know," Arana said.

Arana says each time crew members bring her food, she has to put on her mask before even opening the door.

While she has a deck where she can get fresh air, Arana says those down in the cabin are only allowed to leave their room for fresh air and sunshine a few minutes a day.

"The protocol there though is they have to wear a mask, they can't be closer than two meters to another person, they can't congregate, can't use the elevators. It's essentially a walk in the sun," she explained.

Arana says she and other passengers have made a private Facebook group to support each other while under quarantine.

As she looks forward to her return home, health officials in San Luis Obispo County say the chances of her giving the virus to someone on the Central Coast is extremely unlikely.

"So as long as the quarantine is in place for that two week period from the last possible exposure, then the presumption is they did not become infected and cannot pass it on to others," explained Dr. Penny Borenstein, County Health Officer for the San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department.

Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center in San Luis Obispo says they have two rooms in their ER where they could quarantine someone with coronavirus.

"China is working on something right now, the FDA is working on something right now, but we don't have yet have a medication yet to treat this. So the treatment is purely supportive: pulmonary support, cardiovascular support, giving the patient fluids, breathing treatments, it's purely supportive at this point," explained Dr. Brad Knox, Emergency Room Department Chair for Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center.

Princess Cruise line said in statement Monday:

Princess Cruises confirms an additional 66 cases of Coronavirus as tested by the Japanese Ministry of Health on Diamond Princess. These cases are from Australia (four), Canada (one), England (one), Japan (45), Philippines (three), Ukraine (one) and USA (eleven).

We are following guidance from the Japan Ministry of Health on plans for disembarkation protocols to provide medical care for these new cases.

Since it is early in the quarantine period of 14-days, it was not unexpected that additional cases would be reported involving individuals who were exposed prior to the start of the quarantine.

The Japan Ministry of Health has been the lead public health authority defining the testing protocols for all guests and crew on Diamond Princess. Questions on the timeline, test results and reporting protocols should be directed to them. The quarantine end date remains at February 19, unless there are any unforeseen developments.

Additional information will be shared as soon as it is made available to use by the Ministry of Health.

According to the Coronavirus map, more than 1,000 people have now died from the virus, but health officials say the flu has been more deadly with more than 10,000 people dying from the flu in the U.S. alone so far this flu season.