Among those stuck on board a cruise ship quarantined in Japan due to a coronavirus outbreak are four Citrus County residents.
Gay Courter, who is a well-known author, and her husband, Phil, decided to take a long vacation to celebrate her recent 75th birthday, according to the couple’s daughter, Ashley Rhodes-Courter.
The two are traveling with longtime friends Vana and Mario Mendizabal, also of Crystal River, the daughter said.
Japanese officials quarantined the Diamond Princess cruise ship Monday, after several people on board tested positive for coronavirus, according to Reuters. Since then, it has waited in a harbor in Yokohama, carrying more than 3,700 passengers and crew.
The quarantine will last 12 more days, unless another person tests positive for the virus.
A new strain of coronavirus originated in Wuhan, China, and has infected thousands worldwide. It is a respiratory virus that can cause severe coughing and difficulty breathing.
Rhodes-Courter, 34, lives in St. Petersburg and has been in regular contact with her parents, she said. Their spirits were high to start, but by “day two and three,” their fears were growing, she said. She said they worry that staying on the ship puts them more at risk.
“At this point, they feel like they’re essentially sitting on a petri dish,” Rhodes-Courter said.
At least 64 people on the ship have contracted the virus, according to the Associated Press.
Mario Mendizabal, a doctor who specializes in family medicine, wrote Friday on Facebook that he did not feel safe in the environment and hoped for an evacuation of healthy passengers.
Gay Courter told ABC News on Friday that she has diabetes and doesn’t have two weeks’ worth of insulin.
“It makes your stomach flip to see your parents on international television afraid and vulnerable,” Rhodes-Carter said.
“We just want to get off the ship,” Vana Mendizabal told the Washington Post on Friday.
Gay Courter wrote the “The Midwife,” a best-selling novel in the 1980s. In 2018, she wrote a column in the Times in the wake of Jordan Belliveau’s death, calling on family courts to trust guardians ad litem.