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'A million times better' | Georgetown rector, DC's first positive coronavirus case, speaks about recovery

Rev. Timothy Cole spent three weeks in the hospital after becoming the District's first person to test positive for COVID-19.

WASHINGTON — After three weeks in the hospital, Reverend Timothy Cole is finally home with his family, finishing up his recovery. He was the first person to test positive for coronavirus in D.C.

"Certainly in terms of my mind and heart, a million times better than when I was in the hospital a few days ago," Rev. Cole said.

A spokesperson for Cole said he started feeling sick on Feb. 24, right after returning to D.C. from a conference in Lousiville, Kentucky days before.

RELATED: DC reverend: 'I am the individual who tested positive for the Coronavirus'

By Feb. 29, Cole reportedly started feeling much better, and even was a part of an all-day church vestry retreat. Within days, though, symptoms returned.

"In the beginning, just flu, you know, fever, sore throat, aching, shivering, all that good stuff," Rev. Cole said.

On March 5, he said he collapsed, and his family rushed him to the hospital. That's when respiratory issues emerged, and he tested positive for the coronavirus the next day.

"I had shortness of breath, I was on oxygen for a while," the Reverend said. "There’s not much any of us can do except sit around and watch your body decide whether it’s going to get better or get worse, and there’s not much any of us can do about it."

RELATED: DC coronavirus updates: Stay-at-home order issued as cases near 500

Credit: Rev. Timothy Cole
Rev. Timothy Cole shakes the hands of congregants.


Cole said being alone in a hospital bed took him down a dark road, but he had faith he would pull through. The reverend said God saw him through 20 years as an Army Chaplain, traveling to Afghanistan and Iraq during wartime.

"As I was lying in that hospital room wondering what was going to happen, I just knew that God would see me through this, and he would bring me through to a new day," the Reverend said.

Thankfully, that new day saw him walking out of the hospital Friday and rejoining his wife and son, who had been self-quarantining at home. His daughter lives in London, and had been communicating with him via Facetime from overseas.

Still, it wasn't only his family who had been in quarantine. Most of his congregation--hundreds--had to self-isolate after potentially having been in contact with him during the couple of weeks that he was infectious.

"It’s scary, but…this community, just lavished me with prayers and kindness and support," Rev. Cole said. "So, if it’s frightening, well it’s never so frightening if it’s a lot of people standing beside you." 

RELATED: DC church organist tests positive for coronavirus

Credit: Rev. Timothy Cole
Rev. Timothy Cole poses with his wife and son outside of Christ Church in Georgetown.


Now that D.C., Maryland and Virginia have all issued stay-at-home orders, the virus has even more aggressively impacted people's lives. Many are scared and unsure what the future holds.

The Reverend said it's important to remember that the community and country have surmounted hurdles before, and he's confident they can again.

“It's scary, but this is what Easter, what we’re about to celebrate, is all about," Cole said. "That shut down, closed in, darkness of Good Friday in the tomb, and that waiting period for something to happen, and on Easter Sunday, that explosion of new life, new hope. Even though we can’t see the end now, we know that there will come a day when we can see the end in sight." 

He said everyone will get through the pandemic by supporting each other, and that's what he intends to do--from home.

"I really am certain that we will come out of this much, much stronger as a community than we were before," the Reverend said.

Since the closure of all non-essential businesses canceled church services, Rev. Cole said he and his colleagues are putting together a special virtual service for Easter Sunday.

RELATED: Churches around the DMV move to online services in wake of COVID-19


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