Olympia woman tests positive for coronavirus after Diamond Princess cruise

Marianne Obenchain, who lives in Olympia, has tested positive for coronavirus or COVID-19. She was tested by Japanese health officials Saturday, when the U.S. government evacuated American citizens off the Diamond Princess cruise ship.

She and more than 100 other Americans were taken to Travis Air Force Base in California. Then her results came back positive and now Obenchain is in a hospital in California.

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Obenchain said she was surprised to get the results.

“That news almost floored me,” she said. “I wasn’t showing any symptoms.”

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She’s still showing no signs of the virus and is being retested by hospital staff here in the U.S. She laughed and joked over FaceTime and said she is glad to be back on U.S. soil.

“The positive thing is, I’m getting Starbucks. I’m like woohoo Starbucks!” Obenchain said.

She said she feels fine and doctors aren’t sure if she will develop any symptoms.

“They’re going to keep testing until I test clear,” Obenchain said. “It’s a terrible thing to say oh, you’ve got the virus. But you know - being here in isolation at Queen of the Valley Hospital is probably the best thing that could’ve happened,” she said.

“Because what if I hadn’t been tested when I left the ship? They would never have known and I would’ve been shedding the virus particles all around and possibly take it back home. and I’m so thankful they found out before it got any further along,” she said.

Dr. Peter Rabinowitz is a professor at the University of Washington and studies pandemic disease preparedness. His full title is Co-Director for UW MetaCenter for Pandemic Disease Preparedness and Global Health Security.

He said the people who Obenchain interacted with between Saturday and when the test results came in three days later should be monitored with extra caution.

“It’s concerning because there is evidence that some people seem to be able to transmit the virus even without obvious symptoms,” Rabinowitz said.

He said research is ongoing about exactly how effective quarantine is at preventing the spread of coronavirus, but said the cruise ship was dealing with a unique and challenging situation.

“On the Diamond Princess, whatever it is they were doing, it was not effective,” Rabinowitz said. “Cruise ships are by nature high density, lots of people, and it’s really a perfect setup for disease outbreaks unfortunately,” he said.

Rabinowitz was moderating a panel discussion on the latest research on the virus at the University of Washington Wednesday night.

As for Obenchain, she’s keeping her spirits up.

“I’m looking at it like an adventure,” she said.

But there’s no denying, going home to Olympia - whenever that might be - is sounding pretty good.

“Oh, it was sounding good about oh, 16 days ago,” she said with a laugh. “I miss work, I miss being able to walk around on my days off and go grocery shopping!” she said.

It’s not clear when she’ll be allowed to return home. The earliest would be 14 days after the coronavirus tests start coming back negative.