ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. (WJHL) — Rep. Phil Roe (R- TN) is now trying to help a Tri-Cities couple on board a cruise ship under quarantine after a Coronavirus outbreak in Japan.
That’s according to the family of Arnold and Jeanie Hopland of Elizabethton who are among the 3,500 passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship.
Last week as their cruise was about to end, they were told to stay in their rooms for 14 days because a passenger tested positive for coronavirus.
The Hopland’s tell News Channel 11 they remain in good health. But dozens more people on the ship are getting sick by the day.
Wednesday night, the Associated Press reported Japanese health officials said 44 more people on the ship tested positive for the virus that day. The AP reported 218 people are now infected with the virus out of 713 people tested since the ship returned to the Yokohama Port on Feb. 3.
The Hopland’s say they’ve been allowed out of their rooms only three times for brief fresh air breaks. Cable and Wifi are spotty. But they’re thankful.
“The Princess cruise line has been wonderfully generous and helpful to every degree they can in a situation they were totally unprepared for,” Dr. Arnie Hopland told News Channel 11 in a phone interview. “And I just give them all kinds of praise.”
Family members say Congressman Phil Roe contacted the couple himself to offer assistance.
Wednesday afternoon, a spokeperson for Congressman Phil Roe told News Channel 11 the Congressman is receiving regular updates on the virus and will “stay engaged with our government officials to ensure American citizens receive the best care and treatment possible.”
But while Dr. Hopland, a veteran Tri-Cities physician, is thankful for the good treatment and Congressional help, he’s starting to have serious concerns.
He says the U.S. State Department gave passengers an email to ask questions. But emails to the embassy weren’t initially being returned.
“It seems given the uniqueness of our situation the Tokyo embassy would be extremely interested in serving these citizens in Japan,” he said.
And as the virus spreads through the ship, Hopland questioned the effectiveness of the quarantine.
“This ship has become a real hotbed of disease and every day as more people are diagnosed and,” Hopland said. “I believe it’s evidence the current quarantine is ineffective.”
Hopland says it’s time for the U.S. government to evacuate American passengers and manage their quarantine.
He’s worried what will happen if – after two weeks – passengers are told to go home without being tested.
“If we are in an ineffective quarantine and then brought back to the U.S. and possibly spread the infection, we might have a tremendous health problem in the United States.”