Of the 2,400 passengers stranded off the California coast on a cruise ship with at least 21 people infected with coronavirus, few are likely to have more on board than Kari Kolstoe, a North Dakota pensioner with stage 4 cancer.
Kari Kolstoe, 60, said she and her husband Paul, 61, were looking forward to taking the Grand Princess's cruise to Hawaii as a short, much-needed break from the medical interventions she had had in the past 18 months.
Given the prospect of a two-week quarantine away from her home in Grand Forks, she fears that her escape cruise will lead to a fateful delay in her next round of chemotherapy, which is due to start early next week.
"It's very worrying," she said in a ship cell phone interview on Friday. "It's still a concern that I'm not coming back."
In addition to the effects on cancer treatment, there is fear of becoming ill from exposure to a respiratory virus, which is particularly dangerous for older people with chronic illnesses and suppressed immunity.
"I am very at risk," said Kari Kolstoe, whose rare form of neuroendocrine cancer has spread throughout her body. "It's not good for me to stay here for many reasons."
Kari Kolstoe spoke to Reuters not long after U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, the Trump administration's coronavirus control man, announced that 21 out of 46 people tested on the Grand Princess for COVID-19 , were infected. And he said the ship would soon be taken to a non-commercial port, where all 3,500 would undergo another round of testing on board.
The ship was refused entry into the San Francisco port on Wednesday after state officials learned that some passengers and crew had developed flu-like symptoms and that the same ship has been linked to coronavirus infections in at least four people on a previous cruise from San from San Francisco had been to Mexico.
"Those who need to be quarantined are quarantined," said Mike Pence, including all 1,100 crew members, many of whom may have been exposed to the corona virus during the previous trip to Mexico.
However, it remained unclear what was in store for passengers who tested negative and showed no signs or symptoms of the disease.
The uncertainty clearly took its toll.
"We can all deal with bad news or other news, but we need knowledge to make good decisions, and that's the hard part of it," said Ms. Kolstoe. "I'm probably going … from crazy to sad to angry with the cruise ship" and "worried about my health, worried about what it means not to be treated soon."
She ascribed "do their best" to the ship's crew, but was dismayed that passengers were not informed of the test results before Mike Pence announced them on national television. The message from the ship's captain came 20 minutes later, she said.
Coping with constant pain on her best days, she said it was becoming increasingly difficult for her to feel comfortable in the couple's cabin.
"We just got a leaf under the door (asking) if we need prescription medication in the next seven days," she said. "There are tons of problems. I mean, we all have dirty clothes."
Kari Kolstoe described herself as someone who once "loved" cruises and said that the experience of the week had changed her perspective. "It's probably a risk I can't take anymore," she said.
In the meantime, Ms. Kolstoe said she relied on her belief to get her through the ordeal.
"God is with me. I know he is," she said. "I recently lost my father and I just think he is up there to somehow fix this little situation and I will test negative and go home and get treatment."
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)