A Tennessee doctor remained Thursday aboard the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship that's seen more than 600 passengers and crew -- including his wife -- test positive for the coronavirus, according to multiple reports.
Dr. Arnold Hopland, a physician from Elizabethton, has been confined to his cabin for 23 hours a day, with only the clothes on his back, after the couple's belongings were carried away on buses Monday, when they thought they'd be evacuating along with most of the ship's other American passengers.
But then his wife Jeanie tested positive and was transported to a Japanese hospital. Rather than return to the U.S., Dr. Hopland stayed aboard the ship, which is docked near Tokyo.
"If my wife is staying here, I’m staying here,” he told Nashville's WKRN-TV.
"If my wife is staying here, I’m staying here.”
Hopland described the Diamond Princess as basically being full of the virus.
“We’re essentially living in a petri dish to find out when we get infected,” he said.
More than 300 Americans were taken off the ship and flown to the U.S. on State Department-chartered airplanes last weekend and placed in quarantine, while another 40 Americans -- including Dr. Hopland -- remained aboard.
The Hoplands were scheduled to be on Monday's evacuation flight and had their suitcases already loaded on buses. But then an officer on the ship informed them that because his wife was infected, she had to stay behind.
Leaving his wife was not an option he would consider, Dr. Hopland said. Jeanie was taken away by Japanese officials a day later and now they communicate only by daily phone calls.
U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., had urged officials to evacuate American citizens from the vessel during a conference call last Thursday, according to the Johnson City Press.
Roe -- who is also a physician -- has reportedly been in contact with Hopland.
"They live in very tight quarters, they’re preparing the food,” Roe said, according to the paper. “It’s not an ideal situation.”
Meanwhile, officials said Thursday that two elderly Japanese passengers who had pre-existing medical conditions had died from the virus -- the first deaths recorded from people on the ship.
“They designed an extremely flawed system,” Hopland told the station, “Now for a couple of days, just because they were under-prepared, I can fully excuse that, but for it to continue on now two weeks later and continuing on for another at minimum two weeks … this ship is completely infected with the virus."