Saturday, the federal Department of Health and Human Services announced it would send evacuees from the Diamond Princess cruise ship to the Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston, which is a Federal Emergency Management Agency facility – a decision which came as a surprise to elected and safety officials throughout Calhoun County, who had not been consulted prior to the decision.
While officials say those plans are now canceled, many questions remain unanswered, but some relevant information is already available and important to remember as the situation unfolds.
What is COVID-19?
A new, or novel, form of coronavirus. COVID-19 was first seen in Wuhan, China, late last year, and has since spread to 32 locations internationally, including cases in the United States,according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Evacuees were said to be coming to Anniston. Where are they now?
A total of 328 American passengers were evacuated from the Diamond Princess and arrived back in the United States on Feb. 17, according to a New York Times report. Tests for 14 of those passengers came back positive for COVID-19 after they had already begun transport back into the United States. Those passengers landed at Travis Air Force Base in California and Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. Most were transported to Omaha, Nebraska, for treatment and study at the University of Nebraska.
More of those 328 passengers have tested positive, though; American officials have said at least 18 Americans who were on the ship have the virus, bringing the total in the United States up to 34.
What is the Diamond Princess?
A cruise ship that set out from a port in Yokohama, Japan, on Jan. 20. The ship carried more than than 2,600 passengers from around the world and more than 1,000 crew members. According to a BBC report earlier this month, an elderly man from Hong Kong spent a few days on the ship before disembarking in Hong Kong, where he was later diagnosed with COVID-19. The ship was quarantined, and American passengers only began evacuating last week, according to an NPR report. More than 600 passengers have tested positive for COVID-19.
What is a coronavirus?
According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses are a large family of viruses transmitted between animals and people. Prior examples, like SARS, were transmitted from civet cats, and MERS from camels. Symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.
I’ve been diagnosed with a coronavirus. Do I have COVID-19?
Unlikely. Coronavirus is a common diagnosis, while COVID-19, a new form of coronavirus, is currently rare in the United States. According to the CDC, human coronaviruses were first identified in the mid-1960s. There are four types — 229E, NL63, OC43 and HKU1 — that are the most common diagnoses. The CDC and Alabama Department of Public Health have both issued guidelines for healthcare providers to help diagnose COVID-19, which should help doctors recognize the novel strain of coronavirus.
How do I protect myself from an infection?
The CDC recommends following the same everyday disease prevention routine that helps protect against colds and the flu: Wash your hands, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, and clean and disinfect frequently-touched objects.
Are there any groups of people or demographics I should be wary of?
No. The chances of COVID-19 infection are still low in the United States, according to the CDC. The organization released a statement about stigmatizing people — especially those of Asian descent, which states that paranoia “hurts everyone by creating more fear or anger towards ordinary people instead of the disease that is causing the problem.”