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Coronavirus-infected Americans flew home with healthy passengers — even though the CDC warned against it

Why would they do that?

Takashi Aoyama/Getty Images

American passengers with coronavirus who had been evacuated from the quarantined cruise ship off the coast of Japan were flown home on a plane with healthy passengers, against the warnings of the Centers for Disease Control, according to the Washington Post.

Fourteen American passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship — which has seen more than 600 passengers test positive for coronavirus — boarded planes back to the U.S. with unsuspecting non-infected passengers, reportedly at the urging of the U.S. Department of State. From the Post:

In Washington, where it was still Sunday afternoon, a fierce debate broke out: The State Department and a top Trump administration health official wanted to forge ahead. The infected passengers had no symptoms and could be segregated on the plane in a plastic-lined enclosure. But officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention disagreed, contending they could still spread the virus. The CDC believed the 14 should not be flown back with uninfected passengers.

"It was like the worst nightmare," said a senior U.S. official involved in the decision, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations. "Quite frankly, the alternative could have been pulling grandma out in the pouring rain, and that would have been bad, too."

The CDC was reportedly so displeased with the State Department decision to put the coronavirus-positive patients on the plane that it refused to be included in the news release announcing the decision.

Passengers on the planes taking the Americans back to California or Texas weren't told they were flying with people who had coronavirus, and some of them weren't happy.

"We were upset that people were knowingly put on the plane who were positive," passenger Vana Mendizabal told the Post. "I think those people should not have been allowed on the plane. They should have been transferred to medical facilities in Japan. We feel we were re-exposed. We were very upset about that."

Of the 3,700 passengers on the Diamond Princess ship, more than 600 got coronavirus after "chaotic" and "inadequate" quarantine procedures failed to stop the spread. Two elderly Japanese passengers died within a week of being evacuated from the ship.

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