News of the coronavirus outbreak in South Korea in the middle of February wasn’t something Roxy Lee was in a hurry to tell her friends and family in Oregon about.
Two months later, Lee, a graduate of Roseburg High School who has been living in South Korea for more than a decade, said the message is pretty clear.
“I’m very direct and consistent with what I tell people,” said Lee, the former Roxy Wilson and mother of two boys. “I’m really worried about how things are going to go over there in the next couple of weeks. I know it’s really annoying and feels like a real inconvenience to be stuck at home. I know there’s so many things I love to do. But for the health of my family, it’s better that I stay home.”
Lee, who is in the seventh week of a self quarantine with her two sons, said she knows some families that went into self isolation two weeks earlier and others who started two weeks later.
Many have taken to that in densely-populated Gyeonggi-do, a city located an hour’s drive south of Seoul where many of its residential units are in multi-story apartment buildings.
Regardless, she’d rather be there than in Douglas County.
“No one in the States has said this to me, but Jinsung (Roxy’s husband) did mention a couple times he wished I would just take the boys to the US,” Lee said in a March 2 Facebook post she shared with The News-Review. “I definitely feel much safer being here than face the uncertainty of the US and how they might handle this outbreak.”
South Korea’s infection spread had tapered substantially, and on Tuesday had grown to 9,786 confirmed cases — an increase of 125 from Monday — including 162 deaths. NPR reported that the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, called on other countries to “apply the lessons learned in (South) Korea and elsewhere” in their own battles against the coronavirus.
Domestically, the number of COVID-19 infections in the United States is more than 190,000 as of Wednesday morning, with more than 4,100 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. Oregon’s number of confirmed infections grew to 690 Wednesday, and the 10 confirmed cases in Douglas County doubles the number reported on Sunday and is six more than the county reported Saturday.
South Korea residents, Lee said, always had access to face masks. Most people already had some on hand because of the city’s poor air quality. She also said the local culture is incredibly clean, so sanitation was at the forefront of people’s minds before the virus outbreak.
She credited the government’s reporting system for helping slow the spread. Densely-populated urban areas typically have surveillance cameras on most of its street corners. If someone is diagnosed, Lee said, the South Korean government, without revealing the identity of the infected person, sends a text message to people telling them the time and location of the infected person over the past week.
“I knew Korea was taking measures,” Lee said. “At first, I didn’t want to say anything to my family about it, thinking it would pass and that the media was just blowing it out of proportion, so I didn’t say much at first.”
Her family is listening now, though. Lee said her mother, who lives in Green, has rarely left the house in the past two weeks except for trips to Winchester to deliver food to Lee’s grandfather.
It’s those measures, she said, that have helped limit infections and casualties.
“I see in the news that people are shutting down their borders and going out when they don’t need to be going out,” Lee said. “They haven’t done that here.”