(WJHL) – Dr. Arnold and Jeannie Hopland of Elizabethton are not among the Americans leaving the Diamond Princess cruise ship off the coast of Japan today on evacuation flights to the United States.
The reasoning behind the decision comes after Japanese health officials said Mrs. Hopland has tested positive for coronavirus.
Dr. Hopland so far has tested negative but said he fully intends to stay with his wife.
“I feel fine,” she said. “But I certainly don’t want to get anyone sick so I’m glad I didn’t get around others,” she said from the Hopland’s room on the plaza deck of the cruise ship where they’ve been quarantined for almost 2 weeks.
Around 3 a.m. Sunday morning, the Hoplands were expecting to be among those leaving to come back to the United States.
Email communications to Americans as recently as Saturday were clear and stated that Americans who tested negative for coronavirus would be allowed on U.S. Government chartered planes for travel back to the United States for an additional two-week quarantine. Those who tested positive would not.
What would happen to them has not been communicated, the Hoplands say.
The Elizabethton couple was just about to leave their cabin and go to a bus for a ride to the airport when they were notified of the positive test. Their luggage already had been removed from the room, but now the future is uncertain.
“We have no idea what’s next,” Dr. Hopland said. “But all indications are that if we’re not on the planes leaving Japan, we won’t be allowed back in the United States until late March.”
During a phone interview with News Channel 11’s Josh Smith, a woman’s voice on the intercom could be heard instructing Americans to leave their rooms. But as instructions were issued, the Hoplands could only sit and do nothing.
Sunday morning, their son Dr. Kenny Hopland, an Elizabethton physician, said the family is frustrated.
“A few days ago, the steward who had been bringing them food to their cabins tested positive for this virus,” he said. “There’s no question that they got exposed to the virus because they were forced to stay on the ship.”
Last week, Kenny and Arnold both raised concerns about the effectiveness of the quarantine plan as new cases grew.
For her part, Mrs. Hopland remains cheerful and optimistic because of her faith.
“It’s the fear of the unknown, you know. But the Lord has hold of me, so I don’t have to be afraid,” she said.
The Hoplands said they are awaiting their next steps, but there has not yet been communication on what those steps will be.
I think I’m going to be in quarantine on the boat for two more weeks because I’m still under control of the Japanese authorities. I’m disappointed that the United States didn’t take charge on this,” said Dr. Hopland.