Aboard quarantined cruise ship, Bay Area couple growing more frustrated

A Citrus County couple trapped on a quarantined cruise ship is ready for their vacation to end. 

Gay and Phil Courter are passengers on the Diamond Princess Cruise ship, entering day 10 of quarantine for the novel coronavirus COVID-19, and they said they still have yet to be tested.

The Japanese Health Ministry said Thursday they would allow certain groups of people to get off the ship, saying people who are in their 80s and older are considered a priority for disembarkation.

“We are vulnerable and more and more people are falling ill, and we do not believe the political line of quarantining in place,” Gay Courter told FOX 13 Tuesday.

Princess Cruises confirmed 44 new cases of the coronavirus Thursday, bringing the total of those infected while on board to at least 218, out of 3,700 people.

“Guests who test positive will be disembarked to medical facilities ashore. Those guests who tested negative will be given the option of staying on board or being disembarked and continuing their quarantine in a housing facility,” said the ship’s captain Thursday.

The cruise ship is the largest outbreak of the virus outside of mainland China, and the Courters wonder why the numbers keep climbing.

“They keep assuring us that we're not getting it through the air ducts. So how are we getting it? We do have brief contact with the workers in the hall,” said Gay.

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Chinese health officials released new guidelines Thursday about central air systems in the workplace, suggesting people should be cautious. Princess Cruises said on its website’s frequently asked questions that “there is no current evidence to suggest that the virus spreads through air-handling systems.” 

So while the Courters continue to monitor their health, they are keeping their spirits up. 

“Our children, our family are using every card in the deck and they're doing a great job. We love them very much,” Gay said. 

At the beginning of their quarantine, Gay Courter said she was running out of insulin. She said Tampa General Hospital and Publix helped expedite an overseas shipment, but it got stuck in customs. Courter said media attention helped get her some medicine from a Japanese pharmacy, so she is covered for several more days.  

The ship’s quarantine is set to end on February 19, but health officials said it could be extended ashore as the situation evolves.