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Americans Recount Experience Aboard Quarantined Cruise Ship In Japan


Americans who were in quarantine on a cruise ship off of Japan are finally being evacuated today as long as they aren't sick with the coronavirus. But they will face further quarantine - two more weeks on an Air Force base in California or Texas.

John and Carol Montgomery spent 10 days mostly in their cabin, monitoring their health and watching the number of COVID-19 infections rise. More than 350 people on the Diamond Princess have now tested positive, the largest cluster of cases outside of mainland China. When I spoke with the Montgomerys yesterday, they were more than ready to leave the ship.

JOHN MONTGOMERY: We're excited and relieved. The fact that we're going back to the United States to quarantine - we feel there's a much better situation.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Are you disappointed, though, that you might have to spend another two weeks in isolation?

J MONTGOMERY: Yes. That's a bummer...


J MONTGOMERY: ...You know, because we've already done 10 days, and we feel fine. And I think this is what CDC and some people back in the United States were thinking - is that because we're - been kind of mixing with all the people on the ship that - no guarantee that we're not bringing it back to the States. You know, we understand why, through an abundance of caution, that an additional testing and evaluation and quarantine were, you know, key that we're not bringing it back into the States.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What have you heard from the U.S. government about the evacuation? And are you satisfied with the response that you have gotten, or do you think it might have taken too long?

J MONTGOMERY: At the start of the quarantining, the embassy started sending emails of all the United States passengers. They were telling us that they're working with Japan's Ministry of Health and Princess and CDC and World Health Organization and trying to figure out the best thing to do. It just took a lot of time. And then the State Department - and the States finally came through, and we have this plane coming to get us. And I think most people are very happy with that scenario.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Can you pass the phone to Carol? Thank you so much.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: Hi, Carol. How are you doing?

C MONTGOMERY: Doing really good. I mean, I'm - just like John said, I'm relieved that we're going to be headed back to the States, and we'll be on U.S. soil. And that will make things a lot easier.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Have you packed your bags?

C MONTGOMERY: We never unpacked.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I understand that the U.S. government is evacuating American citizens. What have the members of other countries and the crew said? I mean, it is unclear what will happen to them. Is that right?

C MONTGOMERY: Well, we do have a private Facebook page with other passengers on the ship. And we do understand that the Australian and Canadians said that they're going to send somebody over to work with the Japanese ministry, too. So this is what we were hoping for in the beginning - is that each country would take us off the ship, put us in a military - you know, U.S. has a military (inaudible) - and put us in a quarantine there. That would alleviate a lot of the distress and possibilities of spread.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Talk to me a little bit about this private Facebook group and what the sort of mood shifts have been throughout this 10-day period as the passengers have been enduring this.

C MONTGOMERY: There's around 90 of us, which is not that much for the size of the ship. Some of them have been taken to the hospital, and some are just not coping well. There are some on the ship that (unintelligible) just are very angry and aren't coping well. And they - if they could walk off the ship, they would. But the majority of everybody - everybody's compliant, and they want the same thing. They want it - you know, a safe ending.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. Thank you. And safe travels home.

J MONTGOMERY: Thank you very much.

C MONTGOMERY: Thank you.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That was John and Carol Montgomery on the Diamond Princess cruise ship. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro
Lulu Garcia-Navarro is the host of Weekend Edition Sunday and one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. She is infamous in the IT department of NPR for losing laptops to bullets, hurricanes, and bomb blasts.