Rasha Ali, Becky Kellogg and Savannah Brock
Published 1: 03 PM EDT Mar 10, 2020
Carl Goodman wanted to gift his wife a relaxing 16-day cruise in Southeast Asia on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, but their trip ultimately turned into a coronavirus quarantine that lasted more than a month.
Goodman, his wife and two friends, Mark and Jerry Jorgensen, were passengers on the Diamond Princes cruise that was first quarantined off the coast of Japan on Feb. 3. The last people got off the ship on March 1. The time on the Diamond Princess eventually left more than one fifth of the ship’s original population infected, and guests like Goodman are still feeling the effects of COVID-19. He remains in quarantine, now in Omaha, Nebraska.
Goodman, who is 67 and owns a radio station in Santa Clarita, Cailf., recalled to USA TODAY how he and his wife were getting ready to disembark when they were told over the ship’s loudspeakers that they were not allowed to leave and would be quarantined in their cabin for 14 days. Goodman and his wife scrambled to make arrangements to keep the radio station afloat back home.
“We spent 12 of those 14 days quarantined in our cabin and with each day more and more passengers were coming down with the virus,” Goodman said. “It was like a scene out of ‘Andromeda Strain.”
Luckily, Goodman and his wife booked a mini suite with a balcony so they were able to walk back and forth between their room and the Jorgensens’ room.
“That’s probably what allowed us to survive our 29 years of marriage after being quarantined for 12 days. We did get to spend Valentine’s Day together though in quarantine, which was awesome,” Goodman said.
Having a room with a balcony also allowed Goodman to see exactly what was happening around the ship. He recounted seeing as many as 80 ambulances set up, military vehicles, people in hazmat suits and news helicopters circling the Diamond Princess.
The four friends decided to get tested for the virus just in case. Jerry’s test came back positive and she was rushed to a hospital in about four hours away.
“She ended up not having any symptoms left when she got to Fukushima but still tested positive for the virus… ” Goodman said. “Which was my case because my test results from the Diamond Princess did not catch up with me until about a week later, long after I’d been in Omaha and received test results in Omaha showing I was contagious and had the virus.”
Goodman, his wife and Mark all boarded a plane along with about 150 other passengers headed to Travis Air Force Base in California. Goodman fell asleep on the plane and woke up a couple hours later with a 103 degree fever. He was ushered into the quarantined area of the plane away from his wife and friend. Due to a pre-existing condition, Goodman was transported (along with his wife) to a facility in Omaha that could provide and upper level of care.
“When we landed in Omaha, there were a number of emergency vehicles. There were paparazzi, news media,” Goodman described. “I was transported by stretcher
over to an ambulance again with people. Everybody had hazmat suits on. (I was) put in an ambulance led by motorcade that was larger than either the president’s or the Queen’s through the streets of Omaha and ended up being put into the bowels of the hospital in Omaha and taken through, as I described it in my journal, similar to the opening scene of the old ‘Get Smart’ TV show of many, many passages, turns, stairs, elevators getting me up to the biocontainment area.”
In Omaha, Goodman was housed in a room with windows that looked out into the hallway and the courtyard. He had cameras watching him so doctors could monitor his symptoms and was checked on around the clock. Every four hours for 10 days, a nurse or doctor would come in wearing a hazmat suit and take more tests, or deliver a meal or help with anything he needed.
“It was like I was inside a fishbowl. I stayed in that room for 10 days,” Goodman said.
After multiple tests came back “normal” for Goodman, he was moved to a new room, which he describes as similar to a college dorm room. His wife has since been released and is back home. Meanwhile, he has a television and wireless internet and a stationary exercise bike and he finds a way to stay occupied.
He’s also trying not to get stressed by the situation.
“Stress is probably one of the worst things you could have with the virus because stress contributes to breaking down the immune system. I’ve done everything in my World to keep stress out of my life in what could be a very, very stressful situation,” Goodman said. “I realize it’s totally out of my control and really practice trying to learn to stay in the present, not worry about the past and also don’t make up stories about what the future might bring. Just stay in the present. And that’s helped me get through this.”