A Santa Clarita couple was among 13 people evacuated from a cruise ship docked in Japan and tested for the novel coronavirus in Nebraska.
Carl Goldman, 66, told CNN Monday that he tested positive for COVID-19 — the new strain of the SARS-like virus — while his wife Jeri Seratti-Goldman tested negative. The pair were separately under quarantine at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.
“I am being tended to by two nurses in full hazmat suits, and the doctor who visited me was also in a hazmat suit,” Goldman said. “My wife and I are in separate wings of this facility and we’re talking to each other via FaceTime.”
Testing positive once for the disease does not necessarily mean someone has contracted it, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which collects specimens from people under investigation to make an official diagnosis.
The couple — who own radio station KHTS in Santa Clarita — were on the final day of their 16-day trip aboard the Diamond Princess when they learned a passenger who had already left the ship was diagnosed with the virus. They were held in quarantine in their cabin two weeks before being evacuated back to the U.S.
Altogether, 13 people from the cruise ship at the Omaha hospital had either tested positive for the virus or had a high likelihood of testing positive because of their symptoms, said Dr. Chris Kratochvil, who works at the medical center.
So far, 14 passengers from the Diamond Princess had tested positive for the virus, U.S. health and State Department officials said.
Some were being treated in Omaha and at facilities near Travis Air Force Base in Northern California, said Dr. William Walters of the State Department’s Bureau of Medical Services.
A charter flight carrying 177 American evacuees arrived Sunday night at the California base, near Fairfield. One of them who previously tested positive was confirmed to have the virus Tuesday.
Another 151 Americans were taken to Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in San Antonio, Texas.
Health officials in Omaha said they are testing the individuals at the medical center.
“We’re not going to make any assumptions about anything that’s passed along verbally. We’re going to go ahead and just test everybody,” said Shelly Schwedhelm, the nurse who has clinical oversight of the quarantine and the biocontainment units.
One patient feeling lightheaded with a shortness of breath was taken to the biocontainment unit, said Dr. Mike Wadman, an emergency physician and co-medical director of the quarantine unit. The patient was in stable condition, he said.
The patients in the quarantine unit are being housed in separate rooms. All of them will stay in the quarantine unit for 14 days regardless of the test results, officials said.
The quarantine center is a state-of-the art 20-bed unit, where the biocontainment unit team previously cared for three patients with Ebola in 2014, the hospital said.
Karey Maniscalco sobbed after learning she and the hundreds of other Americans evacuated would face 14 days of quarantine in the U.S. They had already been quarantined on the cruise ship since Feb. 4.
“They have sent over a dozen emails assuring us that there would not be an additional quarantine, and they just told us that we’d be re-quarantined for 14 more days,” Maniscalco said. “I’ve just lost a whole month of my life.”
When KTLA last spoke with the Santa Clarita couple on Feb. 10, while they were still on the ship, Seratti-Goldman said she and Carl tested themselves three times a day and were supposed to alert authorities if they developed a fever.
“I feel like I’m in a TV movie,” she said of the experience.
Ashley Rhodes-Courter said her parents, who were aboard the Diamond Princess, tested negative for the virus. Gay and Phil Courter are now in Texas, their daughter said.
“This is an incredibly stressful situation, that is being handled as best as it can,” said Rhodes-Courter, who kept in touch with her mother through text messages.
Rhodes-Courter said her parents feel a responsibility to keep “the American people safe.”
“They have no intention on spreading this virus,” she said. “They want to ensure that they are healthy.”
Some Americans chose to stay on the cruise ship
Before news broke of the 14 infected flight passengers, some Americans on the Diamond Princess said they didn’t want to evacuate for fear of possible infection.
Sacramento resident Matthew Smith told CNN affiliate KOVR that he would rather deal with issues in Japan than be evacuated and quarantined in the U.S.
“We decided we would just face whatever consequences here rather than exposing ourselves to that situation,” Smith said.
His wife, Katherine Codekas, was met with some surprise when she told authorities that she and her husband didn’t want to evacuate yet.
“I said no, we’re not going, and they very sincerely wished us luck,” Codekas told KOVR. “But there was a little look of surprise on their face.”