The quarantine clock has started over for a Spokane couple who finally arrived home after being stuck on a cruise ship off the California coast.
But they are just happy to be back.
Nancy and David Holmes returned to Spokane on Tuesday from a Hawaiian cruise that turned into a prolonged quarantine.
The Holmeses are now confined to their home in north Spokane for two weeks in a voluntary quarantine advised by the Washington State Department of Health.
“The first step was to get groceries,” Nancy said.
The Holmeses had to rely on family who live locally to help with that, however.
“We can’t leave the house or answer our door,” Nancy explained.
Since the Holmeses are housebound, Nancy’s sister brought groceries from Trader Joe’s and flowers that grocery store staff members offered when her sister told them about the couple’s journey.
Their 2020 cruise likely will go down in family history for the retired Spokane couple as one of the most memorable of their 54 cruises.
The Holmeses set sail from San Francisco to Hawaii, a route they had taken several times before, on Feb. 21. And while the first week was sunny, relaxing and felt like an actual vacation, those sentiments disappeared halfway across the Pacific Ocean on March 4. That’s when cruise ship passengers were notified that passengers on the previous voyage aboard the same ship had tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
That triggered a weeklong quarantine aboard the Grand Princess for the Holmeses and thousands of other passengers. They eventually disembarked on March 12, with no knowledge of where they were headed until they boarded a bus and found out they were going to Miramar Marine Corps Air Station in San Diego.
They remained in quarantine at the inn on base until Tuesday, when they got a knock at their door at 8 a.m.
That’s when they boarded buses with about 50 or 60 others from Washington as well as a few from Idaho. They were taken to a waiting plane that landed first in Spokane, behind the main landing area of the airport. A line of rental cars waited for them.
About a dozen passengers got off, the Holmeses said. A man asked for their licenses, then handed them voluntary quarantine orders and said after two weeks they would be able to return their rental car to the airport, pick up their own vehicle and begin to get back to normal life.
But the Washington they returned to was very different from the one they left. It was a state largely on lockdown.
Washington has more than 1,100 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with more than 60 deaths. While the respiratory virus still is not confirmed in every county, it is spreading statewide, including in Spokane County, despite limited testing and only five confirmed cases.
“We’re just like anybody else now,” David said. “Although the way (the man on the tarmac) said it, it’s voluntary, but we will adhere to that because Nancy’s mom is elderly, and we’re not going to bust the voluntary request.”
The Holmeses left behind several cruise ship passengers still stranded at the Miramar base from other states, including California residents who might be forced to stay there for the duration of their two-week quarantine.
Despite already quarantining for a week, the Holmeses must start over with a two-week quarantine because they were on the airplane, David said.
The couple are still feeling well and have no symptoms. They were not screened for fever before boarding the bus or plane back to Washington. Testing was optional for them, but neither chose to get tested in San Diego.
David said their thinking was, “If you don’t think you need one, don’t hog them up.”
Testing has been limited nationally and locally, even for people with symptoms, due to federal agencies’ lag time in getting commercial labs clearance to ramp up testing because of a limited supply of materials for the tests.
After nearly two weeks of quarantine on the cruise ship and at the air base, staying at home is just fine, the Holmeses said.
“This is not the worst thing that could happen to a person, to stay home for two weeks,” Nancy said.
They plan to catch up on tasks around the house, like cleaning, organizing and doing paperwork.
After their long, strange trip, the couple are glad to be home.
“All is good. The sun is out,” Nancy said.
But the memories linger.
Nancy remembered filling out a customer satisfaction survey that Princess sends out at the end of each cruise, and couldn’t help but laugh when she came to the question, “Did anything go wrong on your cruise?”
She could only pick “yes” or “no.”
“I said yes,” Nancy said.
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