Are health officials leaving Japan vulnerable to a mass outbreak?
Death toll passes 2,000 as Hubei reports 132 deaths for Tuesday
Japan to release first wave of 500 passengers + crew at 10:30 am in Tokyo
Florida health officials mysteriously refuse to share virus info with reporters
Russia bars all Chinese from entering
NYT notes signs of impending economic distress
South Korea announces “emergency steps” to prepare for outbreak.
South Korea announces 15 new cases
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Update (1940ET): It’s Wednesday morning in Yokohama. So you know what that means.
Japanese health authorities are beginning the process of offloading the remaining 2,000+ passengers and crew aboard the ‘Diamond Princess’, a ship that has been under quarantine for 14 days.
The offloading will take place in phases over three days, finally wrapping up on Friday. The first 500 people are set to leave at around 10:30 am Tokyo time on Wednesday. There will be no preference given to different nationalities, according to Japan’s Ministry of Health.
Many who depart will be subject to another 14 days of quarantine, including any Americans who elected to stay on the ship instead of traveling back to the US on the evac flight. Roughly 40 Americans were also excluded from that flight because they were being treated for the virus in a Japanese hospital.
So far, 542 people – including at least 14 of the 300 or so Americans who traveled back to the US on Monday in Japan – have tested positive for the virus. And while Japan says it has tested everybody aboard, doctors and experts say there’s no way to certain that people being released won’t be carrying the virus – hence the quarantines when they return home.
But where will they go between now and then? And with no immediate after-care plans – at least none that have been publicly disclosed, it looks like Japan is about to set thousands of people aboard the most infected environment outside China loose in Tokyo.
Of course, Japanese authorities are so paranoid about the Olympics, one would think they would be doing everything in their power to stop an outbreak in Tokyo, especially at such a sensitive time.
About 500 people are set to leave the ship from around 10:30 a.m. Tokyo time on Wednesday, with no preference given to any particular nationality, Japan’s Health Ministry said.
Hopefully, health officials will manage to convince the world that they successfully screened for the virus.
The ship was first quarantined on Feb. 5 more than a week after a man who tested positive for the virus in Hong Kong disembarked. Journalists have shared stories of desperation and paranoia from those trapped on the ship, making it sound like such a nightmare that many who read those stories may never want to travel on a cruise.
In other news, Yonhap reported minutes ago that South Korea has another 15 cases, increasing the countries total by roughly one-third to 46 one day after the country’s president warned of an “economic emergency” as companies like Hyundai suffer from supply shortages from China. The South Korean government has already announced a fiscal stimulus package to help companies hurt by the virus.
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Update (1720ET): Health officials in Hubei reported a big jump in deaths on Tuesday, shattering the state’s narrative that the virus is being beaten because the number of confirmed cases and deaths were falling.
And with the new figures, the China death toll has hit 2,000 exactly, up from 1,868 deaths as of the end of Monday, according to China’s NHC.
- HUBEI REPORTS 1,693 NEW CORONAVIRUS CASES, 132 DEATHS FEB. 18
- CHINA’S CORONAVIRUS DEATH TOLL HITS 2,000
Meanwhile, state officials in Florida are refusing to release any information about the state’s efforts to contain a coronavirus outbreak, including data about the number of patients who have been tested for the virus, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
“The goal of this public health response is containment,” said state Surgeon General Scott Rivkees, who presented to the Senate Health Policy committee Tuesday. “And if there’s a confirmed case, it will absolutely be reported.”
Rivkees added that the state wasn’t allowed to release the information because of “privacy concerns” – likely a rule about patient confidentiality codified in the federal HIPPA guidelines.
However, veteran journalists in the state pressed the surgeon general: These numbers were shared with the public during Zika, and since the numbers don’t include any personalized details, there shouldn’t be any conflict with HIPPA.
Despite their protests, the state simply deferred to the Department of Health, which has created a 700-person incident management team to liaise with states and help the country prepare for the potential outbreak. Certain protocols have been shared with officials in every state.
Though if not sharing this information is part of some kind of federal ‘protocol’, then how come Washington State is sharing some of this information directly on a Department of Public Health website?
Also in the US: the CDC said earlier that the State Department is planning to bar any Americans who were aboard the Diamond Princess but didn’t return with the evacuees from returning to the country until next month.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.