(NEW YORK) — As novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, continues to spread around the globe, Americans are wrestling with an uncomfortable side effect of widespread infectious disease: the possibility of quarantine.
A quarantine is designed to keep high-risk individuals who may have been exposed to the virus in isolation during the disease’s infectious period, to see if they became sick.
Since COVID-19’s incubation period is believed to be 14 days or fewer, that’s how long the quarantine period has lasted for the Americans who were evacuated by the State Department out of Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Other countries, including Japan, where a cruise ship containing thousands of individuals who may have been exposed to the virus is docked, have instituted their own 14-day quarantines.
For some, quarantine is merely inconvenient, or at worst, dull. For others, especially those quarantined outside of the country, or who rely on prescription medication, the situation is more precarious.
Here are snippets of life under novel coronavirus quarantine:
Aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan
Last week, American author Gay Courter and her husband Phil sent dispatches from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, off the coast of Yokohama, Japan, where more than 3,000 passengers and crew members were put under quarantine when dozens of fellow passengers started testing positive for the novel coronavirus.
“As far as jail cells go, it’s pretty elegant,” Courter said in a Feb 4 interview. “It’d be a lot more pleasant if we can get food.”
Courter and Phil were isolated in their mini suite and the crew had halted room service, but meals were being delivered to their door, albeit slowly.
“Right now, the ship is in crisis mode,” said Courter, whose 1995 book, I Speak For This Child: True Stories of a Child Advocate, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. “This is very serious and scary.”
Like many of the passengers on board the ship, Courter and Phil are older Americans, and running out of prescription medication is a pressing concern.
“I don’t have 14 days’ worth,” said Courter, who takes insulin to control her diabetes. “We need to get out of here while we’re still healthy.”
Fellow Americans on board the ship include New York residents Milena Basso and Guy Cerullo, who are on their honeymoon and similarly confined to their room.
Basso and Cerullo said they’re getting three meals a day, free internet and access to counseling services. During scheduled break times, passengers are allowed on the ship’s upper deck, as long as they wear masks and gloves.
But because of increasing infections among fellow travelers, the newlyweds aren’t willing to risk it.
“It’s just slowly creeping up,” Basso told ABC News in a Monday telephone interview.
“It’s making us think, like us being on here, we’re just prone to this scenario to happen. That’s what’s really worrying us.”
“I’d rather go mentally crazy than catch the virus,” Basso added. “It’ll be worth it in the end for us to just get home, to be healthy and clean, and that’s it.”
By Wednesday, the couple’s good spirits had soured. Basso wasn’t up for a phone call, Cerullo told ABC News via text. “The rising numbers are freaking her out,” Cerullo wrote.
Dad and daughter quarantined together at Miramir airbase
Frank Wicinski and his 3-year-old daughter Annabel spent two days in the hospital under observation after landing at Miramar airbase in San Diego last week.
When she was finally released, Wicinski was relieved to have access to a swing set at the base, where Annabel could burn off some of the energy she’d built up during her hospital stay.
But while both father and daughter were cleared for having coronavirus and can leave the base after their 14-day quarantine ends, Wicinski’s wife, Li Qiong, remains in China, where she is caring for her father, who has a severe coronavirus case.
“[My wife] was told by the doctors, ‘Your father is dying and probably has one to two days left,'” Wicinski told San Diego ABC affiliate KGTV.
In recent days, Li was also diagnosed with coronavirus.
“I feel like I should’ve stayed — that I could’ve,” Wicinski said. “I mean, on the one hand, I know getting Annabel out of there was the right thing to do. But she’s my wife, and I love her.”
Life after quarantine
For professional football player Jarred Evans, being quarantined at March Reserve Base in California didn’t mean taking off time from training.
Instead, Evans, who played quarterback for the Wuhan Berserkers for two years, spent his quarantine getting in shape for an upcoming stint on a pro team in Switzerland that begins later this month.
Evans even measured the distance around the base hotel’s courtyard, so he could calculate how far he needed to run every day.
“I run around that multiple times until I reach 3, 4 miles,” Evans told ABC News.
Another top priority for Evans: calling his parents three or four times a day and using the laptop he had authorities ship to the base to help with his family’s New York car service company.
By Feb. 11, Evans and the other Americans who had been quarantined at March were given a clean bill of health and told they were free to go.
“The quarantine has been lifted,” Evans said in a selfie video he provided to ABC News. “As you can see, we’re getting on the bus, heading to our certain locations.”
“It’s been 14 days and we’re just happy that we’re all here safe and sound,” he continued. “It’s been a blessing. At the end of the day, I get to go see home with my family.”
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