Coronavirus Patient Speaks from Hospital Bed on Social Distancing: 'Stay Away from Other People'
Kevin Harris said that his symptoms started with a slight cough, then quickly evolved into something much worse
A hospitalized Ohio man recovering from coronavirus is warning others to take social distancing seriously as the virus continues to spread across the country.
Kevin Harris, 55, said he is “not out of the woods, but… better every day” as he continues treatment at Mercy Health St. Joseph Warren Hospital in Warren — but that wasn’t always the case.
Harris said in a Facebook Live video filmed Friday night that his symptoms began on March 2 with a small cough, which soon led to body aches and a fever. The father of four assumed it was the flu, as he did not have a sore throat or runny nose.
“I never had any signs until the night… I started coughing,” he said. “That was the first sign and it went downhill in 24 hours, like gangbusters. I woke up several times thinking I was gonna die.”
Harris said he was “one cough from going into cardiac arrest” when a friend came to take him to the hospital, where he was admitted on March 8, WJW reported. He tested positive for coronavirus on March 11, making him the fifth confirmed case in the state of Ohio, according to NBC affiliate WKYC.
Speaking from his hospital bed with an oxygen hose in his nose, he emphasized the importance of social distancing, or keeping significant distance from others so as to reduce the risk of breathing in droplets produced by the coughs and sneezes of infected people.
“Do not go in the crowds. Do not shake hands. Stop hugging each other,” he said. “Wash your hands continually. Do not kiss on your kids. There are thousands of people carrying this virus around. They may never get it.”
He doubled down on his plea in a Skype interview with WKYC, once again urging people to avoid others for the time being.
“People need to stay away from other people. They call it social distancing — I say just be anti-social. Just stay away from other people,” Harris said. “This thing is deathly dangerous. Treat everybody like it’s the zombie apocalypse. Don’t trust nothing anybody touches.”
In his Facebook video, Harris said he became ill despite not having gone many places for two weeks prior. He believes he contracted the virus while at a check-up at the Cleveland Clinic.
Since falling ill, which he likened to “drowning on dry land,” he says he’s certain he has not exposed anyone else to the virus, as he was holed up in his home for two weeks.
“I promised certain officials that I would tell people they can get through this,” he said. “Don’t be scared. You can live through this. But you’ve got to start taking care of yourself.”
Harris is one of 37 confirmed cases in Ohio, and one of at least 3,602 in the United States, according to The New York Times.
Social distancing has been embraced by cities and states across the country, many of which have closed bars, music venues and schools as a means of keeping people from gathering in large crowds.
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments and visit our coronavirus hub.