In the wee hours of a rainy Monday, more than a dozen buses sat on the tarmac at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport. Inside, 328 weary Americans wearing surgical masks and gloves waited anxiously to fly home after weeks in quarantine aboard the Diamond Princess, the luxury liner where the novel coronavirus had exploded into a shipwide epidemic.
But as the buses idled, U.S. officials wrestled with troubling news. New test results showed that 14 passengers were infected with the virus. The U.S. State Department had promised that no one with the infection would be allowed to board the planes.
Regardless of what the CDC advised, the Trump administration and the State Department decided to fly the passengers home.
The coronavirus (officially, SARS-CoV-2) is extremely contagious. Experts estimate that without protective measures, every infected person will spread it to an average of slightly more than two additional people. The disease has been fatal in roughly two out of 100 confirmed cases.