U of M grad quarantined in Japan says coronavirus patients can roam halls, not isolated

TOKYO, Japan — A Tennessee Native diagnosed with the coronavirus prays for a miracle Wednesday.

University of Memphis graduate Luke Hefner has been in quarantine in Japan since Feb. 5.

FOX13 has been in constant contact with Hefner since he got off the Diamond Princess cruise ship.

Hefner was concerned the conditions he lives in could make him sicker.

That’s right―or at the least―they contribute to his being quarantined for so long.

Most coronavirus patients we've heard about have been quarantined for two weeks.

Tomorrow marks one month that Hefner has been quarantined in a Japanese medical center, with no signs of ending any time soon.

“I don’t know why I’m even wearing this,” he said.

Hefner is frustrated.

Hefner was a singer aboard the Diamond Princess.

He told FOX13 a U.S. Embassy official told him it is “absolutely vital to remain isolated and away from people for the likelihood of a full recovery.”

However, check this out.

“I just wanted to give everyone a realistic view of our situation," he said. "I am in a shared facility. I am not isolated. In fact, I would like to show everyone my room mates here. Say hi Tonosec. There are two behind the curtain. We are all confirmed positive patients.”

Hefner said patients are allowed to roam the halls as long as they wear masks.

The 18 patients also share a bathroom.

“We are all just waiting for two negative throat swab test results," he said. "The only issue is: I’ve spoken to other facilities and they are testing patients every single day, if not every other day. Every four days if not once per week.”

The patients, he said, must get two negative test results in order to leave.

He said their biggest concern now is that the tests come back inconsistent.

“There are now multiple people here who have arrived positive, then had a negative result, which is hopeful, and are now back positive again,” Hefner said.

This leaves them to wonder if their current shared conditions affect their test results.

Since Hefner can’t, we took his concerns to the expert, Dr. John McCullers of UT Health Science Center.

He told us if Hefner and the other patients are truly infected, then there’s no chance of them passing it back and forth in a short period of time.

“The only concern I might have is if you have false positives in the test: somebody you think is positive is not positive, now you’ve put them in there with somebody who is sick, and might pass the virus on to them,” McCullers said.

FOX13′s Winnie Wright spent the day reaching out to Congressman Steve Cohen, Senators Marsha Blackburn and Lamar Alexander, the CDC, and the State Department to see why other patients have been allowed to fly back to the U.S. to finish quarantine, but Hefner was not.

The State Department was the only one to respond.

They told us this:

“The Department of State has no higher priority than the welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad. U.S. Mission Japan will continue to provide all possible consular services to U.S. citizens remaining in Japan. Due to privacy considerations, we have no further comment.”