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Trump ‘furious’ State Dept. returned Americans with coronavirus to US from Japan, WaPo reports

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday that there are now 34 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, COVID-19, in the United States.

The confirmed cases include 21 repatriated individuals. Three were evacuated from Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, and eighteen were passengers of the Diamond Princess, a cruise ship in Japan.

And President Donald Trump is reportedly furious that the State Department decided to return these passengers to the U.S. without informing him of the move, according to the Washington Post.

The newspaper reported that the president was told last Saturday that patients who had symptoms or were infected would stay in Japan, and healthy passengers would be allowed on State Department charter planes back to the U.S.

“Trump was briefed on the decision and agreed that healthy passengers should not be on the plane with sick ones, three senior administration officials said,” the Post reported. “But the State Department and a top U.S. health official ultimately decided to bring back the 14 Americans who tested positive for the virus on the planes and place them in isolation — without informing the president first.”

The Japanese government quarantined 3,700 passengers and crew members aboard the Diamond Princess luxury liner for nearly two weeks, causing the coronavirus to sweep through the ship, the newspaper reported.

A total of 634 passengers have now tested positive for coronavirus, this representing the second-largest number in any place outside China. Two Japanese passengers on the ship have died.

More from the Post:

Last weekend, the State Department flew 329 U.S. residents home from the ship on two chartered flights. The Washington Post reported Thursday that the evacuation was delayed for hours by a last-minute disagreement among government officials. As the passengers arrived at the airport in buses, test results came back indicating 14 people waiting to evacuate were infected with coronavirus.

CDC officials did not want to put sick people on the plane with uninfected passengers, but they were overruled by the State Department and another top government health official.

 

Among those President Trump complained to about the change was said to be his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, Domestic Policy Council director Joseph Grogan, and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who is running the president’s coronavirus task force.

Dr. William Walters, the executive director and managing director for operational medicine at the State Department’s Bureau of Medical Services, said the decision to bring the infected patients back was the “right one.”

“We had 328 people on buses. We had a plan. We were executing the plan,” he said Friday at a press briefing. “Then we received lab results on otherwise asymptomatic, un-ill people that were on their way to an airport. I think the folks on the ground did just the right thing by, out of an abundance of caution, moving those 14 people into an isolation area where they pose no threat to themselves or anyone else.”

“At the end of the day, the State Department had a decision to make, informed by our inter-agency partners,” Walters added. “We made ahead and made that decision. The decision, I think, was the right one, in bringing those people home.

Those infected with COVID-19 flew on the same flight as healthy passengers, but were reportedly isolated in a bio-containment box in the plane. As mentioned above, Trump had already agreed that those who are infected should not share the same plane.

Other passengers on the flight are being quarantined for 14 days.

Tom Tillison

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