Warrington couple on cruise ship was among first isolated — now everyone is in same boat

Colette Smedley and her husband flew back to the United States last weekend.

For most York County residents, the sudden shift from day-to-day routines to isolation came as shock — but that wasn't the case for Bill and Colette Smedley.

The Warrington Township couple were among the first in the U.S. to be quarantined after a positive case of novel coronavirus emerged on their Diamond Princess cruise ship while it was docked in Japan.

After spending 10 days on lockdown aboard the ship, the Smedleys were among more than 300 American passengers evacuated on Feb. 17 and flown back to U.S. military bases, where they spent another 15 days under quarantine.

"We came back here and thought, 'We're done with all this,'" Bill Smedley said Tuesday.

After nearly a month of quarantine, the couple returned home around March 4 for about a week of normalcy before government-ordered closures started the following week.

More:Warrington Twp. couple off cruise ship but still quarantined over coronavirus

More:Virus quarantine extended for York County couple, others evacuated from cruise ship

The fast spread of the virus surprised many, including the Smedleys.

"We thought it couldn't happen to us when we were over there," Bill Smedley said of the exposure in Asia.

Then it seemed unlikely to follow them home to the U.S. or spread as quickly as it did around the globe, he said.

"The world is a smaller place now," he added.

Though they are back in isolation, Bill Smedley said he and his wife are much more comfortable at home than they were waiting it out on the cruise ship, where there were no telephones.

With a 10-acre property to care for, there's plenty to do — such as weeding the gardens, power washing, painting and readying the pool for the summer, he said.

Colette Smedley is doing better than he is at keeping entertained, although she misses playing weekly games of mahjong, he said.

Bill and Colette Smedley are expected to be cleared to return to their home in York County early next week.

"I wish they wouldn't have closed the golf course," Bill Smedley said, while adding that he is grateful to be retired and not worry about working a job.

He is worried about the workers who are out of jobs or those like his daughter — who is in the trucking industry — who still have to come into contact with people on a daily basis, he said.

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Smedley said there's still a lingering concern that he and his wife might test positive for the virus, though they've managed to bypass it so far — despite having a rather lengthy exposure since embarking on the cruise in January.

Though there was a 25% chance of contracting COVID-19 — the disease caused by the novel coronavirus — while on the ship, they never had any symptoms and still have not shown any after being home, he said.

Bill Smedley and his wife are currently being quarantined at Lackland Air Force Base.

Gov. Tom Wolf's recent directive to wear masks brought back memories for the couple, who had to wear surgical masks — though not medical-grade N95s — whenever someone came to take their temperature or give them food.

"That's like a distant memory now," he said, but they still have a bunch of those masks left over to use at home.

While Smedley said he hopes the quarantine doesn't go on much longer, he's willing to do what it takes to keep others safe.

"Putting people's lives in jeopardy is not worth (a) little bit of freedom," he said.