YOKOHAMA, Kanagawa — Businesses and travel agencies around the globe have had to change how they operate due to fear of spreading the coronavirus, now called COVID-19.
The virus is believed to have originated in China, in the Wuhan province.
While Olympia resident Marianne Obenchain has never been to mainland China, the coronavirus has thrown a wrench in her vacation plans.
Obenchain, along with thousands of other passengers, are trapped on the U.S.-operated Diamond Princess, a ship quarantined in a port in Yokohama, Japan, near Tokyo for coronavirus.
Obenchain and the 3,700 others went on a cruise around Asia for several days with no issues.
On Feb. 4, passengers were getting their bags packed to disembark the cruise to head home. Crew members told passengers to go back into their rooms and wait.
The next day on Feb. 5, crews informed passengers that they would be stuck in the port under quarantine for the next 14 days.
“I cried a little bit. I made calls to work, made calls to my pet sitter. It had some hiccups at the start because this was something that was new to everyone on the ship-- not just passengers,” Obenchain said.
She said at the beginning, passengers didn't have masks. Now, all are equipped with special masks and passengers are required to stay in their cabins.
Some people, particularly those in rooms with absolutely no windows, have been allowed on portions of the deck for fresh air. A requirement for that is to wear your face mask and be two meters apart from everyone else.
Despite her vacation taking a different turn than she thought, Obenchain is looking on the bright side.
“You can't really go downhill and be negative about it, because it’s not going to do me any good," she reasoned.
Obenchain has been keeping herself entertained with the TV in her cabin and has been in contact with friends and family in Washington via Facetime.
She is worried that even if she gets to go home on time and gets cleared in Japan that she'll be stuck for another 14 days trying to get back into Washington.
If all goes well, passengers are expected to be released from quarantine on Feb. 19.
Japan’s health ministry says 39 new cases of a virus have been confirmed on the Diamond Princess. The update brings the total found on the Diamond Princess to 174 cases, as of Tuesday.
Another new case was confirmed in an official who participated in the initial quarantine checks the night the ship returned to Yokohama Port near Tokyo on Feb. 3.
Japanese health officials began medical checks on all of the ship's 3,700 passengers and crew after one previous passenger tested positive for the new virus.
The death toll from COVID-19 continues to climb. As of Tuesday, 1,017 people have died from the coronavirus and the number of those infected rose to 42,700.
Diamond Princess announced on Sunday that everyone on board would get a full refund for their travels-- including air travel, hotel, ground transportation, pre-paid shore excursions and other items.