Elizabethton man still stuck on cruise ship: It’s a ‘petri dish’ for Coronavirus

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ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. (WKRN) — It’s been almost three weeks since a passenger who was onboard a Diamond Princess Cruise ship tested positive for Coronavirus, now more than 600 passengers have the virus.

Officials announced Thursday two elderly Japanese passengers with pre-existing conditions have died as a result.

Officials stopped the cruise in Japan to examine passengers and quarantine the ship; originally they only found ten people tested positive.

One of the passengers who tested positive in the coming days is a woman from Elizabethton, Tennessee.

News 2 spoke with her husband who is still quarantined on the ship, “We’re essentially living in a petri dish to find out when we get infected,” said Dr. Arnold Hopland.

Hopland is confined to his cabin aboard the ship, all he has is his phone and the clothes on his back.

“I was scheduled to get on the evacuation flight, and my wife and I were at the door to our cabin, our suitcases had been loaded on the buses to go to the evacuation flight, and as we were exiting our cabin, we were stopped by an officer on the ship who said, ‘Your wife tested positive you can’t get on the flight…. she can’t get on the flight, you can if you wish.’ I said, ‘If my wife is staying here, I’m staying here,'” Hopland told News 2.

After 16 hours in their room, Japanese officials took his wife off the ship.

Hopland, a physician in Elizabethton, talks on the phone with her daily.

“As soon as she got to the hospital, her first test was negative,” he said, “And then the hospital ran out of testing supplies, so she can’t get her second test yet that will allow her to leave the hospital.”

With Coronavirus (COVID-19), some immune systems overcome it, some can’t.

Hopland, who is still testing negative, is allowed to leave his room for one hour a day.

“I’m not sure what my status,” he said, “Since I had shared the room with a positive tested patient, I’m not sure if I’m supposed to leave the room or not, the quarantine here is managed so poorly, it’s not clear at all what the requirements are.”

The cruise ship quarantine is in place for two more weeks, but Hopland says it’s a failed plan.

On February 4th, 10 people on board tested positive for the virus.

Thursday, February 20th, the number of infected onboard hit 634. More than 50 are Americans.

“They designed an extremely flawed system,” Hopland explained, “Now for a couple of days, just because they were under-prepared, I can fully excuse that, but for it to continue on now two weeks later and continuing on for another at minimum two weeks… this ship is completely infected with the virus.:

Diamond Princess announced Thursday that they released 600 virus-free passengers from the ship Wednesday.

However, Hopland says he is stuck for at least two more weeks

He says he and his wife will then have to spend at least another two weeks in a quarantine facility here in the United States before they can return home to Tennessee.

He tells News 2 that as a doctor, he thinks he was placed on the ship for a reason, now, strongly advocating for stricter regulations to stop the spread of the virus.

Nearly 76,000 people have contracted the new Coronavirus. More than 2,000 people have died from it, the majority of deaths in China.

According to the New York Times, the first clinical trials are beginning on possible drug therapies.

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