Jeffrey and Marcy Koppenheffer are on the final stretch of their long and unexpected journey home.
The Bern Township couple, who were among the thousands of passengers on a cruise ship that carried people infected by the new coronavirus, COVID-19, arrived early Wednesday morning at an airbase in Georgia to begin a 14-day quarantine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will have full responsibility for all aspects of the quarantine. The passengers taken to Dobbins Air Reserve Base were screened before arrival and have not shown symptoms.
About 3,500 people on the cruise, which docked in Oakland on Monday following a trip to Hawaii, had been confined to their rooms since last Thursday. The Koppenheffers said they passed the time watching movies and enjoying the ocean view from the balcony of their 200-square-foot state room.
Jeffrey and Marcy said that when they finally set foot on dry land Tuesday afternoon they were whisked away to a medical tent, where their temperatures were taken. After receiving clearance from the medical team, the couple was loaded onto a bus and escorted by police to the Oakland International Airport, where they boarded a chartered flight to the Georgia airbase.
When they arrived at the airbase, they were ushered into a one-room apartment outfitted with a microwave, refrigerator, private bathroom and more than 200 cable channels.
"It's extremely plush," Jeffrey said. "It's in no way sleeping on a cot in an airplane hangar, which is what I envisioned."
But the best thing, Jeffrey said, is that he and Marcy can spend some time outdoors. While they are confined to a fenced space and forced to wear face masks, he said having the ability to walk around and chat with the other passengers has been a huge improvement over being stuck inside their cruise ship room.
And the food situation is still pretty good — even if they can't pick exactly what they want from room service. The Koppenheffers said they get deliveries of supplies a few times a day that give them plenty of options.
"It's more of an inconvenience than it is a problem," he said. "The only downside of the whole trip, honestly, was wearing a face mask for 15 hours while we traveled here. That was the hardest part."
Help at home
Jeffrey and Marcy said they consider themselves among the lucky ones knowing that their children are taking care of things at the family business and are making sure the animals are fed at their farmette.
"We're able to come and go as we please," he said. "And, for the most part, people seem to be in good spirits."
Jeffrey said they have been comparing notes with another couple from Berks County, whom they met by chance before the quarantine was ordered. He said the pair from Oley Township have also chosen to embrace a positive outlook on what has become an extended vacation away from home.
But not everyone feels that way.
The Koppenheffers know that some passengers are frustrated about the unexpected turn of events, and are outraged that they got stuck in this situation. In fact, they have even crossed paths with the Florida couple who have filed a $1 million lawsuit against Princess Cruise Lines alleging that the company exposed them to the coronavirus.
"I think the lawyers are going to slay them on that one because Princess Cruise Lines did nothing wrong," Jeffrey said. "They've done nothing but think of our safety this whole time, and they're losing a lot of money over this."
The couple said they're determined to make the best of the situation.
"We're staying positive," he said. "We're going to be here for the next two weeks and we have no say about it. And it's probably the right thing to do."