SANTA ANA (CBSLA) — Orange County Chief Executive Officer Frank Kim revealed Monday that he has tested positive for COVID-19.
Kim told City News Service that he was “startled” by the Nov. 10 diagnosis, because he had just gotten a negative test result and has been extremely careful throughout the pandemic.
“I thought it was the flu,” he said. “How could I have COVID, because I had a negative test [on Nov. 6].”
Kim said he became symptomatic on Nov. 7, including some body aches, and took another test on Nov. 9.
A county contract tracer suspects he was infected after meeting with a staffer Nov. 5, according to Kim. That staffer later tested positive for coronavirus.
“The good news is, number one, we were following and responding quickly and the contact tracers were able to contact and test everyone, so that part of it is working,” Kim said. “The unfortunate thing is even if you’re working with a very small stable cohort of employees … it’s not a guarantee you’re not going to transmit it.”
Kim said he was reluctant to share his diagnosis because he did not want to become the focus of the news as the county grapples with increasing case rates and hospitalizations, but felt it was important to let people know the risk of contracting COVID-19.
“That’s really the message,” he said. “Even if you’re physically healthy, you can get COVID, and it can take you many weeks to recover.”
More than a week into the illness, Kim said he still experiences symptoms.
“It’s been seven days or so, and I still don’t feel back to normal, and I’m not in a position to leave the house, and it’s very difficult,” he said.
Kim said he experienced an occasional loss of taste and smell and still becomes feverish unexpectedly.
“When you have COVID, you don’t have an appetite,” he said. “Things don’t taste right. Some things taste normal, other things don’t.”
He said the only foods whose flavors remained unchanged were bananas and honey melon.
“Lemon jelly beans have no particular flavor,” he said. “Vegetables don’t taste like anything.”
But the biggest takeaway of Kim’s diagnosis for other Orange County officials was that anyone could contract the illness.
“I don’t know of anyone who is more vigilant in protecting himself,” OC Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Andrew Do said. “He has been tested many times. But despite all the precautions he has COVID-19.
“He has been very careful about wearing a mask and minimizing his contact with people,” he continued. “I know because I’m in regular meetings with him and briefings, and he has been tested regularly.”
“People need to be aware of that as we approach the holiday season with family gatherings,” Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett said.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)