Story at a glance

  • Evacuees from the Diamond Princess Cruise ship were flown to the National Quarantine Unity in Nebraska for observation.
  • One of the best hospitals for virus outbreaks, the National Quarantine Unit treated Ebola patients in 2014.
  • The admitted Americans will be quarantined for another 14 days as some citizens chose to stay behind on the Diamond Princess in Japan.

Thirteen Americans who were evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship on U.S. charter flights are being tested and treated for COVID-19, according to the University of Nebraska Medical Center and CNN.

The evacuees arrived at Eppley Airfield near Omaha, Neb., and departed for the hospital’s National Quarantine Unit. 

The hospital, based in Omaha, will hold the patients in its new National Quarantine Unit, which was reportedly “designed for this very purpose” in the fallout of the SARS outbreak in the early 2000s. Nearby is the similar Nebraska Biocontainment Unit for more serious cases. The unit also cared for three Ebola patients during the outbreak in 2014, per the press release.


CNN reports that the patients will stay quarantined for 14 days, the alleged timeframe for the virus to begin showing symptoms. 

The National Quarantine Unit was established with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the state health department in the event of another outbreak. The total cost for the medical center was just around $1 million, while the biocontainment unit ran closer to $20 million. 

At the nearby Nebraska National Guard base, around 60 more people have been potentially exposed to the virus, according to AP. They will likely be handled in the biocontainment unit if anyone experiences symptoms of COVID-19. 

In the press release, Dr. Jeffrey P. Gold, the chancellor of the University of Nebraska Medical Center, said “We [hospital staff and officials] were there for Ebola...and we’re going to be there for these American citizens as well,” referring to the 13 new patients. 

Those quarantined tell CNN emotionally taxing stories resulting from moving from one quarantined space to another. 

Currently, there are more than 73,000 confirmed cases globally and 29 documented in the U.S. Of the 1,875 deaths, no Americans have died in the U.S., but one older American man living in Wuhan reportedly died from the virus while still in mainland China. 

Published on Feb 18, 2020