Philip and Gay Courter spend these agonizing days in their cabin aboard the Diamond Princess, using it as a makeshift studio for TV news interviews.

The Courters, along with Dr. Mario Mendizabal and his wife, Vana, are stuck aboard the ship docked near Tokyo in quarantine in response to the coronavirus.

The Crystal River couples are not silently counting down the days to Feb. 19, when the 14-day quarantine is scheduled to end.

All four have provided interviews to a host of national and international news sites, including the Chronicle. And they keep their friends up to date with social media posts.

Dinner is on its way here aboard the quarantined Diamond Princess,” Philip Courter posted Tuesday on Facebook, complete with a photo of masked crew members at their stateroom door. “Tonight: Italian antipasto salad, sliced beef with rice and veggies (yummy sauce) and cake for dessert.”

The Mendizabals and Courters are among 3,600 passengers and crew that have been ordered to stay put. Multiple media reports say the ship has 135 confirmed cases of the deadly disease, the most outside China.

The couples were unavailable for comment.

The Courters’s son,, Blake, sent the Chronicle an email Tuesday morning saying authorities on board decided to start evacuating high-risk passengers, such as the elderly.

“We are pleased about the suggestion that more and more passengers will be removed from harm’s way,” he wrote. “The authorities started with those with the highest risk of mortality, and appear to be reaching out to the next most vulnerable.”

Through their spokeswoman, the Courters said they are concerned about staying on the ship.

“We are worried that re-circulating air may be transmitting a virus to those who are not yet sick,  therefore the only safe choice is to remove all passengers to a land-based quarantine where air is not recirculated. In addition, the ship’s crew have no special training in quarantine procedures and some may be infected themselves,” it reads.

The Courters have kept busy with interviews for NPR, MSNBC and other media. She’s also kept her Facebook page updated with photos and the latest reports.

They are used to the limelight. Gay is a best-selling novelist; her husband, an award-winning documentary filmmaker.

Contact Chronicle reporter Mike Wright at 352-563-3228 or

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