President Donald Trump is reportedly furious after underlings at the State Department decided to fly 14 Diamond Princess passengers who tested positive for coronavirus back to the U.S. without telling him, and against his wishes.
Trump had been told last Saturday that only evacuees who didn’t have symptoms or positive test results would be allowed on State Department charter planes back to the US from Japan, according to the Washington Post.
Officials on the ground realized late in the evacuation process, on the airport tarmac in Tokyo, that 14 of the roughly 350 evacuees had tested positive for the virus.
State Department underlings made the quick decision to allow the infected citizens onto the flights, but separated from the other passengers within portable bio-containment units that were already on the planes, in case passengers showed symptoms during the flight.
State Department underlings made the quick decision to allow them onto the flights, but separated from the other passengers withing bio-containment units (seen in background)
President Donald Trump is reportedly furious after underlings at the State Department decided to fly 14 Diamond Princess passengers with coronavirus back to the US
Trump learned of the decision only after the fact and was angry that he wasn’t consulted first, complaining that the decision could damage his administration’s handling of the response, administration officials told the Post.
Some members of the coronavirus task force back in Washington were not told in advance that the infected people would be placed on the plane, and learned about it only after the plane was on its way back to the U.S.
One senior White House official said not informing Trump of the decision ahead of time was a ‘big operational mistake.’
Trump has since expressed in outrage on phone calls with top White House officials, saying he should have been told, that it should have been his decision — and that he did not agree with the decision that was made.
All of the Diamond Princess passengers who returned to the U.S. are currently under a 14-day mandatory quarantine on military bases in California and Texas.
On Friday, the CDC said there were now 28 U.S. residents brought home from the Diamond Princess cruise ship who have tested positive for the virus.
Officials on the ground realized late in the evacuation process, on the airport tarmac in Tokyo (above), that 14 of the roughly 350 evacuees had tested positive for the virus
The bio-containment units that were already on the planes, in case passengers showed symptoms during the flight from Tokyo to the US
Those who tested positive for coronavirus are receiving medical care in top-level medical isolation units.
The State Department underlings countermanded the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in ruling that the infected citizens could return to the U.S. on the evacuation flights.
Sources involved in the decision told the Washington Post that CDC staunchly warned the State Department against transporting infected and uninfected people side-by-side, but were ultimately overruled.
‘It was like the worst nightmare,’ said a senior US official involved in the decision, who spoke to the Post on the condition of anonymity.
‘Quite frankly, the alternative could have been pulling grandma out in the pouring rain, and that would have been bad, too.’
Asked about the conflict between the two agencies during a Friday press briefing, CDC spokesperson Nancy Messonnier punted curtly to the State Department.
A plane carrying American passengers, who were recently released from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan, arrives at Travis Air Force Base in California on February 16
American evacuees from the Diamond Princess cruise ship arrive at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland on February 17 in Texas
‘It’s important to remember this was an emerging and unusual circumstance,’ said Ian Brownlee, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Consular Affairs.
‘We had 328 people on buses, a plan to execute and we received lab results on people who were otherwise asymptomatic, un-ill people on a bus on the way to the airport.
‘The people on the ground did exactly the right thing…in bringing them home.’
People who had tested positive were put into isolation units on board the two cargo planes, which then flew to Joint Base San Antonio – Lackland in Texas and Travis Air Base in California.
Although officials reassured the press that the sick passengers were thoroughly contained and every precaution had been taken to ensure the safety of the healthy people onboard, reports later emerged that people on the flights had no idea they were sharing yet another even more confined space with infected individuals.
When the planes landed at their respective destinations late Sunday night, six ‘high risk’ passengers from Lackland and seven from Travis were ushered onto an additional flight to Omaha Eppley Airfield in Nebraska.
Eleven of the 13 American passengers evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan who were deemed ‘high risk’ for coronavirus have been confirmed to have the infection that’s spread to nearly 77,000 people around the world.
Twelve of those 13 passengers were being held at the National Quarantine Center in Omaha, Nebraska, while one was transferred immediately to the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit because they had developed symptoms of the virus and had an underlying condition.
All 11 new cases were confirmed Thursday by the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), while the other two passengers at UNMC tested negative.
Before the passengers were brought back, there were only 15 confirmed cases in the U.S., a number that has more than doubled thanks to the Diamond Princess evacuees.
WHO says ‘untraceable’ clusters in Iran, Singapore and South Korea signal that virus is spreading uncontrollably
Alarm bells are sounding as three countries reported clusters of infected patients with no traceable source vector from China, the first sign that the virus is spreading uncontrollably and could reach pandemic levels.
Doctors are unable to identify the source of coronavirus clusters in South Korea, Singapore and Iran, the World Health Organization said Saturday.
WHO officials said China’s crackdown on parts of the country bought time for the rest of the world to prepare for the new virus. But as hot spots emerge around the globe, trouble finding each source – the first patient who sparks every new cluster – might signal the disease has begun spreading too widely for tried-and-true public health steps to stamp it out.
World Health Organization officials said China’s crackdown on parts of the country bought time for the rest of the world to prepare for the new virus. But as hot spots emerge around the globe, trouble finding each source – the first patient who sparks every new cluster – might signal the disease has begun spreading too widely for tried-and-true public health steps to stamp it out.
‘A number of spot fires, occurring around the world is a sign that things are ticking along, and what we are going to have here is probably a pandemic,’ said Ian Mackay, who studies viruses at Australia’s University of Queensland.
In South Korea, medical workers wearing protective gear transfer a suspected coronavirus patient to another hospital from Daenam Hospital where a total of 16 infections have now been identified with the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Cheongdo county
In Singapore, visitors wearing masks as a precaution against a new coronavirus arrive for the Singapore Airshow. The virus becomes more widespread, trying to trace every contact would be futile, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said
In Iran, a young woman wearing a protective mask crosses a busy street in the capital Tehran on Saturday. Iran today reported one more death among 10 new cases of coronavirus, bringing the total number of deaths in the Islamic republic to five
That worst-case isn’t here yet, the WHO insists. It isn’t convinced that countries outside China need more draconian measures, but it pointed to spikes in cases in Iran and South Korea to warn that time may be running out to contain the virus.
‘What we see is a very different phase of this outbreak depending where you look,’ said WHO’s Dr. Sylvie Briand. ‘We see different patterns of transmission in different places.’
The World Health Organization defines a ‘global pandemic’ as a disease spreading on two continents, though some public health experts would call an outbreak a pandemic if the spread is over a wide area or across many international borders.
The newest red flag: Iran has reported 28 cases, including five deaths, in just days. The cluster began in the city of Qom, a popular religious destination, but it’s not clear how. Worse, infected travelers from Iran already have been discovered in Lebanon and Canada.
In South Korea, most of the hundreds of new cases detected since Wednesday are linked to a church in the city of Daegu and a nearby hospital. But health authorities have not yet found the ‘index case,’ the person among the church´s 9,000 followers who set off the chain of infections.
There also have been several cases in the capital, Seoul, where the infection routes have not yet been traced. In Europe, Italy saw cases of the new virus more than quadruple in a day as it grapples with infections in a northern region that apparently have spread through a hospital and a cafe.
A map shows the spread of coronavirus worldwide, with untraceable clusters now in Iran, Singapore and South Korea
People rest in a temporary hospital situated in the Tazihu Gymnasium in Wuhan, Hubei province, China on Friday. The epidemic-stricken city plans to build 19 more makeshift hospitals to ensure enough beds for COVID-19 patients
Nurses distribute meals to patients at a temporary hospital situated in the Tazihu Gymnasium in Wuhan on Friday
A doctor instructs recovered COVID-19 patients to be discharged from a temporary hospital in Wuhan on Friday
A cluster of cases isn’t inherently worrying – in fact, it’s expected as an infection that’s easy to spread is carried around the world by travelers. The first line of defense: Isolate the sick to treat them and prevent further spread, and quarantine people who came in contact with them until the incubation period is over.
But as the virus becomes more widespread, trying to trace every contact would be futile, Singapore´s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong acknowledged earlier this month.
‘If we still hospitalize and isolate every suspect case, our hospitals will be overwhelmed,’ he said. So far, the city-state has identified five clusters of transmission, including two churches. But there remain eight locally transmitted cases with no links to earlier cases, or to China.
Viruses vary in how they infect. The new coronavirus – unlike its cousins SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, and MERS, or Middle East respiratory syndrome – spreads as easily as a common cold.
And it’s almost certainly being spread by people who show such mild symptoms that no one can tell, said Dr. Amesh Adalja of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
‘If that’s the case, all of these containment methods are not going to work,’ Adalja said. ‘It’s likely mixed in the cold and flu season all over the place, in multiple countries’ and gone unnoticed until someone gets severely ill.
These milder symptoms are good news ‘in terms of not as many people dying,’ said Mackay, of Australia. ‘But it´s really bad news if you are trying to stop a pandemic,’ he added.