The Washington Post - 03.03.2020

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seoul — At first, the 47-year-old
restaurant owner thought he was
just tired from work. Doctors
prescribed some cold medicine.
But his headache worsened. He
started to run a fever.
“I still didn’t think I had con-
tracted the coronavirus,” Kim Se-
ung-hwan recalled. “I only saw
that on the news about China,
and I have not traveled outside
South Korea recently.”
It was in mid-February, before
clusters of coronavirus infection
were reported around his home-
town, Yeongcheon, about
180 miles southeast of Seoul. But
the region would quickly become
the center of the country’s out-
Kim’s condition did not im-
prove, and he went to a bigger
hospital in nearby Daegu city on
Feb. 18. At that point, coronavirus
cases were starting to appear
nearby. Just hours before Kim
arrived at the hospital, the first
coronavirus case was confirmed
in Daegu.
Nurses in protective gear
whisked Kim away to an isolation
Kim’s account — of infection,
fear and recovery — is just one
story among tens of thousands as
the coronavirus spreads around
the world. But it offers a window
into the arc of the disease for
some patients and the toll it
exacts on the body and mind.
Kim was well aware that the
virus had claimed lives, including
some like him: the relatively
young and healthy. As he grew
sicker, the thoughts began to
creep in: Would the covid-19 dis-
ease take him as well?
“Fears grew as I was left in the
dark about what the virus could
do to my body,” he told The
Washington Post in a telephone
interview. “I could not but won-
der if it could threaten my life.”
His first moments in the hospi-
tal were a blur of activity.
Because he displayed pneumo-
nia-like symptoms, he was quar-

antined in a negative-pressure
room that keeps the air from
seeping outside. Doctors took
swabs from his nose and mouth
to test for covid-19.
Kim waited for the results in
the isolation ward. “The only
thing I could hear was the buzz-
ing noise of the ventilator,” Kim
said. He was not sure if his
headache was a symptom of the
virus or from snowballing con-
cerns about possible infection in
his family home and his restau-
Kim and a dozen other patients
in Daegu and the surrounding
North Gyeongsang province test-
ed positive, among the first cases

confirmed in South Ko-
Now, the number of
coronavirus cases in
South Korea has reached
more than 4,200. Nearly
90 percent are in Daegu
and North Gyeongsang.
Kim watched cable
news in the hospital
ward as reports of coro-
navirus grew in South Korea and
beyond. The TV and his phone
were his links to the outside
world. All visitors were banned.
As he saw the news of the virus
spreading in his town, Kim’s
thoughts were with his wife and
daughter, who had taken care of

him at h ome. He r emem-
bered their worried eyes
on him tossing and turn-
ing in his bed from se-
vere pain.
He couldn’t sleep for
several nights in a row. “I
was so tired, but could
not fall asleep because of
the aches and pain felt
all over my body,” he
He felt too hot in his bed.
It was an unpleasant kind of
heat — different from the feeling
after a sweaty game of badmin-
ton. The fever induced by the
coronavirus felt “achingly hot,”
Kim said. His body temperature

spiked above 100 degrees.
Doctors at the hospital pre-
scribed him antibiotics, other
medicine and intravenous fluids.
He was sent spare underwear
and towels from home, which he
lacked because he was hospital-
ized so abruptly. His family also
sent him fried kimchi and other
home-cooked dishes.
Four days into treatment, on
Feb. 21, the doctors said his lungs
had returned to normal. his
symptoms started to ease. His
fever broke. His head stopped
But the worries still raged. The
television he watched to distract
himself from the pain beamed

alerts of South Korea’s first death
from the coronavirus.
Would it cripple his body? Had
he infected his family and the
customers at his restaurant?
Immediately after Kim’s diag-
nosis, the provincial government
tracked down and published the
list of the places he had visited
during the four days since he
started displaying symptoms.
Health authorities in South Ko-
rea take those measures with
every patient to help the public
identify the risks.
The clinics Kim visited and his
seafood restaurant were listed
online and shut down for disin-
fection. His family and customers
at h is restaurant have been tested
for the virus. No relatives have
turned up positive. Neither has
anyone who visited the restau-
rant, he says, as far as he knows.
Kim’s health turned a corner
last week. He could walk around
inside the ward and started doing
light exercises.
He t ested negative for the virus
on Feb. 24 and again the next day.
On Wednesday, eight days after
he was diagnosed, he was re-
leased from the hospital.
“I was so relieved,” he said, “so
happy to be back surrounded by
my family.”
Kim is now on a self-imposed
14-day quarantine, staying in his
room and not dining with his wife
and daughter. “The doctors told
me I can go back to my daily life,
but the fear of reinfection still
lingers in my mind,” he said.
“Coping with the virus was like
a nightmare,” he said. “But in
hindsight, I realize I was one of
the lucky ones to have received
proper treatment.”
About 2,000 coronavirus pa-
tients were waiting for hospital
beds in Daegu as of Monday
morning, according to the city
“I want to tell other patients
that the coronavirus can be beat-
en,” he said. “I have now fully
recovered and do push-ups in the
[email protected]

Fever, fear and slow recovery: One man’s battle with coronavirus i n S. Korea

yoNHAP/AgeNCe FrANCe-Presse/geTTy ImAges
Medical workers in protective gear leave a hospital for patients infected with the coronavirus in Daegu, South Korea, on Sunday.



The panic began slowly, with
shoppers looking for face masks
and hand sanitizer. But it hit a
fever pitch over the weekend as
crowds descended on supermar-
kets and big-box stores, snapping
up cleaning supplies, toilet paper
and nonperishable foods to pre-
pare for the coronavirus.
“It has gotten crazier by the
day,” said a Ta rget employee who
fulfills online orders at a store in
“A lot of it is obviously panic-
buying, people stocking up on
eight gallons of water or 20 kinds
of soups. Items are selling out
immediately, as soon as they go
up on shelves,” said the employ-
ee, who, like others interviewed
for this story, spoke on the condi-
tion of anonymity to talk freely.
The United States confirmed
its first two coronavirus deaths
over the weekend, sparking fears
of a broader outbreak that
prompted many Americans to
make a run on their local super-
market, pharmacy or warehouse
club. Long lines and bare shelves
were common, even in areas
without any known coronavirus
cases. A Ta rget store in Colma,
Calif., sold out of bottled water. A
Costco in San Francisco is out of
Clorox wipes. Home Depot is
limiting customers to 10 face
masks per person. Amazon,
meanwhile, is warning shoppers
that availability may be limited
on its Prime Now grocery-deliv-
ery service. (Amazon founder
and chief executive Jeff Bezos
owns The Washington Post.)
At Kings P harmacy in Manhat-
tan, the last shipment of Purell
sold out within an hour. Now
customers are showing up with
Internet recipes for homemade
hand sanitizers, leading to a
spike in sales of aloe vera gel and
rubbing alcohol.
“Everything is on back order,”
said Jones Chen, who owns the
Manhattan pharmacy. “ I’ve never
seen anything like this.”
He ran out of Purell at 1 p.m.
Thursday and got another
140 bottles at 6 p.m. An hour
later, they were gone. Also sold
out: disinfecting wipes from Wet
Ones, Clorox and Lysol. Sales of
regular hand soap, though —
which doctors say provides the
best line of defense — were about
the same.
The relentless spread of the
pneumonia-like virus tied to
more than 3,000 deaths world-
wide has set off the kind of
panic-buying normally reserved

for natural d isasters. But unlike a
hurricane, which delivers de-
struction within a relatively con-
fined window of time before
moving on, there is no end in
sight to this outbreak — and it’s
making shoppers crazy.
“Consumers’ irrational behav-
ior will certainly do more dam-
age than reality will,” said Allen
Adamson, a consumer brand
consultant who teaches at New
York University’s Stern School of
Business. “People are emotional-
ly driven and nervous, and noth-
ing makes them more nervous
than a threat they can’t see.”
Sales of medical masks have
risen 78 percent in the most
recent week, compared with the
same period last year, according
to Nielsen, a data tracking firm.
Also spiking are sales of hand
sanitizer (up 54 percent), ther-
mometers (34 percent), disinfec-
tant sprays (19 percent) and
dried beans (10 percent).
An employee at a Whole Foods
in Los Altos, Calif., said the store
was out of “pasta, beans, frozen
vegetables, hand sanitizer, toilet
paper, paper towels. “There’s a
little bottled water left,” she said.

“I’ve worked here 10 years, and
I’ve never seen anything like
The Centers for Disease Con-
trol and Prevention has warned
that community spread of the
coronavirus in the United States
was inevitable and urged busi-
nesses, hospitals and communi-
ties to brace for impact. So far,
local transmission of the virus
has been concentrated in Califor-
nia and Washington state, where
it probably had been spreading
undetected for the past six
weeks, according to new re-
search. By Monday afternoon,
the U.S. death toll stood at six, all
in Washington state.
The outbreak has sickened
nearly 90,000 people in 60 coun-
tries since it emerged in Wuhan,
China, in December.
Because the virus has the po-
tential to metastasize into a glob-
al pandemic, the Department of
Homeland Security recommends
stockpiling a two-week supply of
food and water, as well as pre-
scription medications and non-
prescription remedies like pain
relievers and cough and cold
medicines. Social media posts

from around the world showed
shoppers crowding into stores,
forming long lines and climbing
shelves to snag the last remain-
ing items. Shoppers posted pic-
tures of packed parking lots,
barren shelves and signs warn-
ing of low or nonexistent inven-
Shelf-stable and frozen foods
were i n high demand. At a Trader
Joe’s market in Mountain View,
Calif., the freezer section was
cleared out of pizza and most
ready-made meals by Sunday
evening. There was no pasta or
rice left. One woman’s cart was
piled to the brim with frozen
mushroom ravioli. Another cart
was filled with six gallons of
“It’s been crazy like this for the
last three days,” said an employ-
ee, adding that the store set a
new sales record Saturday. He
said demand for canned tuna
was particularly high.
Supply chain experts said the
recent shortages are just the
beginning of what could be
months of coronavirus-related
shortfalls. Household necessities
and nonperishable foods are be-

ing hardest hit now, but U. S.
retailers could soon be dealing
with a scarcity of apparel and
electronics, as those sectors rely
heavily on Chinese factories, ac-
cording to Per Hong, a senior
partner at Kearney, a global man-
agement consulting firm.
“These near-term shortages
are going to have very long-term
implications with financial con-
sequences six months, 12 months
down the line,” he said.
Anxiety surrounding the virus
has rippled through global econ-
omies as investors fear its rapid
spread could bring more coun-
tries to a standstill. Last week, it
pushed U.S. stock markets into
their worst week since the 2008
financial crisis. B ut the makers of
quarantine-essential products,
biotechnology and pharmaceuti-
cal firms — including Clorox,
vaccine maker Moderna and
mask manufacturer 3M — have
seen their stocks rise. Vice Presi-
dent Pence is scheduled to visit
3M’s Minnesota headquarters
this week.
U.S. surgeon general Jerome
M. Adams took to Twitter on
Saturday to urge the public to

refrain from buying masks be-
cause a shortage could worsen
the outbreak.
“They are NOT effective in
preventing general public from
catching #coronavirus, but if
health care providers can’t get
them to care for sick patients, it
puts them and our communities
at risk,” Adams tweeted.
Amazon also has not been
immune to shortfalls. Many list-
ings for masks and hand sanitiz-
ers across t he e-commerce giant’s
platform say products are “cur-
rently unavailable.” What inven-
tory there is comes from third-
party sellers and at premium
pricing. A two-pack of 12-ounce
Equate hand sanitizers is listed
at $78.95, or $3.29 per fluid
ounce. That’s easily 19 times the
Walmart brand’s usual retail
price. There was only one left in
stock on Monday.
“There is no place for price
gouging on Amazon,” Amazon
spokeswoman Cecilia Fan told
The Post. “We are disappointed
that bad actors are attempting to
artificially raise prices on basic
need products during a global
health crisis and, in line with our
long-standing policy, have re-
cently blocked or removed tens
of thousands of offers. We c ontin-
ue to actively monitor our store
and remove offers that violate
our policies.”
Manufacturers say they are
trying to replenish shelves as
quickly as possible. Gojo Indus-
tries, the Akron, Ohio-based
company that makes Purell, has
“increased production signifi-
ca ntly” and has employees work-
ing overtime to deal with boom-
ing demand, said spokeswoman
Samantha Williams. The compa-
ny has 2,500 employees and
manufactures Purell at two
plants in Ohio and one in France.
“We are seeing a substantial
increase in demand,” she said in
an email. “We have experienced
several demand surges in the
past during other outbreaks.
This is on the higher end of the
spectrum but not unprecedent-
On Friday, the Food and Drug
Administration reported the first
manufacturing shortage of a
drug due to the coronavirus.
Although the agency declined to
identify the drug, it confirmed
that the shortage is a result of
manufacturing freezes in China.
[email protected]
[email protected]

Jay greene in seattle and Christina
Passariello in san Fr ancisco
contributed to this report.

Long lines, low supplies: Panic sparks a buying frenzy

DUANe TANoUye/reUTers
Shoppers line up to buy supplies at a Costco store in Hono lulu on Friday. The Hawaii State Department of Health advised residents last
week to stock up on a 14-day supply of food, water and other necessities, though the state does not have any confirmed coronavirus cases.
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