Churches are supposed to spread “the good news.” But Georgetown’s Christ Church announced on March 8 that its rector, the Rev. Tim Cole, was the first person in Washington, D.C., to be hospitalized with a serious case of coronavirus, a severe and potentially fatal upper respiratory disease with, currently, no known cure or vaccine. Still, the church had three pieces of good news to share on Friday the 13th.
“Father Tim’s oxygen levels are significantly improved and, although he remains in the ICU for isolation purposes, he no longer requires ICU care,” the church informed parishioners through email and the church website. In addition, Cole’s wife Lorraine tested negative for the virus and so has their son, Tim, The Georgetowner was told.
Four parishioners have tested positive for the disease, however, including the church’s organist, Tom Smith. “Please be assured that I’m just fine and that my partner, John Barnes, remains symptom-free,” wrote Smith in a letter to the church that is posted on its website.
“Residents who were exposed through an ongoing outbreak, such as the one at Christ Church in Georgetown, are the only ones who can obtain a test directly through D.C. Health without a health evaluation,” according to Preetha Iyengar, an epidemiologist at the District Department of Health. For others to be tested, health departments in Virginia, Maryland and D.C. have ruled that patients must first obtain approval from their doctor.
“Physicians do not need approval from a public health department to order a test from a private lab,” said Iyengar.
On Saturday, Lorraine Cole offered the following words to The Georgetowner.
“What a surreal experience the last two weeks have been! As Tim’s wife, I thought I was bound to end up testing positive for the virus just as he had been. What a nice surprise and unbelievable relief it was to find I was, in fact, negative. Shortly thereafter we learned my son was negative as well. We still have to remain quarantined in our home until the 14-day period is up, but we are getting there. That includes Brodie, our Labradoodle. I think he’s finding it tougher than we are.
“Tim hadn’t been feeling great for some time before he was admitted to the hospital last week. The initial diagnosis was pneumonia. The following morning, medical staff asked if we had any questions and given all that’s been going on with rapid spread of COVID-19, I asked that he be immediately be tested for the virus. When they subsequently decided to test him, the positive result was like a bomb exploding. It was scary and surreal in equal measure.
“Tim has had a superb team of doctors and nurses looking after him. He’s making very good progress but he’s not quite there yet. Tim has certainly improved, only to regress again some days, which has been confusing, but overall he is headed in the right direction. He can’t have any visitors, so being able to contact him through FaceTime-iPhone has been a life saver.
“The outpouring of support, prayers, and love from the Christ Church community and beyond has been so precious to us. I worry and think of those who have fallen ill with this virus every day and I pray that they too can be lifted up as we have.”
Stephanie Green contributed to this report.