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Fort Myers woman returns home after close call with coronavirus

Posted at 8:00 PM, Feb 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-19 20:00:28-05

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Holley Rauen said she’s looking forward to finally sleeping in her bed, and not wearing a mask.

Rauen couldn’t wait to set sail for a beautiful tour of Asia. Things went well on the Westerdam cruise’s first stop, Singapore. But, once countries got word of another cruise ship - the Diamond Princess cruise line where hundreds had the coronavirus - Rauen’s ship was stuck sailing.

“We were just all over the south and north China sea,” she said. “One-by-one every country that was on our schedule said we don’t want you. So, for some passengers psychologically it was a really bad feeling. Being a refugee. Being a ship without a port.”

So far, there’s 75,000 cases of COVID-19 worldwide and more than 2,000 people have died from this strand of the virus. Rauen said countries were playing it safe…but believes they were overreacting at first.

After two weeks of sailing aimlessly they saw a silver lining.

“Cambodia said that they would welcome us to their shores and would let us in,” she said.

Then a bumpy road turned into a roadblock for the Westerdam ship. Holland America which owns the Westerdam started flying people out of Cambodia to their home countries.

Until Saturday when they found out a woman who landed in Malaysia from their cruse caught the virus. Suddenly, hundreds of people were stuck in Cambodia.

“One country after another, starting with Malaysia, because of the woman, they said nobody can fly here from the Westerdam,” she said. “To feel like nobody wants you, like no country wants you is a really bad feeling.”

They checked into a Cambodian hotel and everyone had to get tested for the virus, leaving Rauen feeling unsettled.

But she and friends decided to brace the Cambodian culture and have a positive outlook.

“Buddhist custom is all about embracing uncertainty, and being in the moment, and so we all had to really practice that,” she said.

They did yoga to take their minds off the fear of the unknown, and finally Sunday night Rauen’s negative results came in, and she was clear to fly back home to Fort Myers.

Rauen said the people she came back with will not have to get quarantined. But the health department told her to check her temperature three times a day and let them know if she develops any symptoms.