Passengers and crew of the Diamond Princess are halfway through a 14-day quarantine period, even as confirmed cases of the coronavirus continues to climb.
And that’s making the Courters nervous.
“No way we should be stuck on this boat with all these sick people,” Philip Courter said in a phone interview Wednesday morning from his cabin.
Philip and Gay Courter, along with Dr. Mario Mendizabal and his wife, Vana, are aboard the Diamond Princess as it sits docked near Tokyo.
The Crystal River couples haven’t seen each other since Japanese authorities ordered all guests confined to their cabins. In fact, they haven’t seen anyone in person other than the crew members who deliver meals to their door.
“We have not seen a medical professional,” Courter said. “I would be thrilled to see a medical professional.”
The number of confirmed cases on board increased from 135 on Tuesday to 175 Wednesday. It’s the largest concentration of cases outside of mainland China.
The Courters are saying busy providing interviews to numerous media organizations, including BBC, MSNBC and Fox. Courter spoke to a Chronicle reporter at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday — 9:30 p.m. on the ship.
Courter said ship personnel are removing passengers who are elderly or have significant medical needs unrelated to the virus.
“It’s an amazingly slow process,” he said.
The Courters reached out to friends in Crystal River and Tampa, and arranged for medical supplies shipped to their location. Gay Courter is diabetic and in need of insulin, her husband said.
While Courter praised the Diamond Princess crew for its service during the crisis, he said there is little the staff can do.
“This is all being done under the strict control of the Japanese medical authorities,” he said. “They call all the shots.”
And, while some wonder why the entire ship isn’t evacuated of passengers who have tested negative for the virus, Courter said he can understand why Japanese authorities would be unwilling to do that considering symptoms may not show up for days after contracting the disease.
“Japan wants to protect Japan,” he said.
Dr. Mendizabal couldn’t be reached for comment, but he sent a reporter a text that reads:
“We are doing well. Anxious at times with the effects of isolation and little information that we can get. We were told that the last day of our confinement will be the 19th. It is such an amazing situation, medical, political ... it appears that there are a lot of opinions about this virus. We are in foreign territory although we know that there is a person from the CDC that is now in Tokyo. The American embassy contacted us and said that they are working on our behalf.”
He added: “We have received a lot of support from the people of Citrus County. We are so thankful and ask for your prayers. We are humbled by the response to our situation. Awesome people.”
Courter said he and his wife are comfortable in their stateroom, and the meals are delicious.
“This is like,” he said, “a luxury prison.”