After 55 days in the hospital, Justin Weber is back in a familiar place: home.
Weber, Hardin County’s first confirmed case of COVID-19, was released from the hospital on Wednesday afternoon and was met by a caravan of cars, law enforcement vehicles and five fire trucks at the Steamboat Rock Baptist Church.
The vehicles joined Justin and his family – in a parade style – as they made their way to the Webers' home in Eldora.
Once the Weber family reached their home, cars drove by waving and shouting well wishes from a safe distance.
Justin is the pastor at Honey Creek-New Providence Friends Church, and the welcome home was initiated by members of the church. Dick Talbot had the idea and set things into motion.
“Justin’s been through a whole bunch at the hospital and his family has been, too, just because they had to stay home and couldn’t be near him," Talbot said. "So, when they said he was coming home, I got the idea. I’ve been watching TV and seeing all these parades for the graduates and thought ‘Why not do that for Justin?’”
Justin is also the owner of The Pickin’ Preacher vintage goods store in Eldora. He tested positive for COVID-19 in March and was admitted to the hospital shortly after the diagnosis.
“Once it really took hold, it took hold fast,” his wife, Krista, said in an earlier interview with the Times Citizen. “The X-rays showed a lot of difference in that three-hour time span. So then they admitted him and they sedated him and put him on a ventilator. From what I’m understanding, this is happening a lot. It’s not uncommon for the lungs to be damaged before you realize what’s going on.”
As of Wednesday, 13 Hardin County residents had tested positive for COVID-19. Locally, eight people have recovered from the illness, while statewide there have been 8,419 recoveries. On Wednesday the total number of infected Iowans stood at 15,826, and 395 Iowans have died.
Justin Weber has had a long and winding road to recovery. He was diagnosed on March 26 and was admitted to the hospital shortly thereafter. He spent nearly a month in the ICU, including 17 days on a ventilator. After five weeks in the hospital, Justin was admitted to an inpatient rehabilitation center, where he spent 21 days.
While Justin was still in at the rehabilitation center, Krista, talking to the Times Citizen, called his recovery "a miracle."
“We have just been so appreciative of all the concern for him, for us," Krista Weber said last month. "The prayers, the prayers have just been unbelievable. God has given us the peace to be able to handle it all. I’ve learned a lesson about trusting and faith and peace all of that. That’s what has sustained us.”
The community understood how difficult it was for Justin's family, who weren't allowed to visit him in the hospital due to restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus.
“The thing is, we can’t get together at the church anyways, and we can’t support one another like we normally would," said Talbot. "In a time of crisis, normally you get over to the house and sit with them and talk with them or whatever needs to be done. You can’t do that today. It has been a strain on everybody and I think it’s been doubly hard for Krista and her family.
“And we love him. He’s a wonderful person,” Talbot added. “I enjoy him very much and he’s fun to be around. He’s just very extroverted and has a good time.”