What it's like to have coronavirus: A first-hand account from CBS News' Seth Doane

CBS News' Seth Doane on getting coronavirus
CBS News' Seth Doane on getting coronavirus 05:29

Six CBS News employees have been diagnosed with COVID-19, including foreign correspondent Seth Doane. Appearing on "CBS This Morning" on Monday from his home in Rome, Italy, Doane described his symptoms, testing and coronavirus diagnosis, and his experience living under quarantine.

His first symptom, he said, was, "I coughed a little bit, just enough to worry the people I was with here. We were out working covering this story. I started to have a little bit of a cough that worried me. For the most part, I feel okay. As we know, this is a deadly virus. It can be incredibly serious, a major respiratory illness. So far I've been lucky. I've had a chest pressure almost like you feel like you've done a big chest workout. I've had a little bit of a cough. I had a relatively mild fever. I've had kind of weird aches and pains in places I'm not used to. But honestly, I feel like I've had colds and flus worse than this. I've never been totally out for the whole day in bed. I've been up, able to talk with people. So for me, luckily, it's been quite mild.

"But as soon as I learned I had been exposed to people who had tested positive, we have been in lockdown here inside the house," he said. "As you know, Italy has been locked down. People have been told they have to remain at home. Since I have had exposure to positive cases, I was absolutely not allowed to leave the house. I haven't even left to take out the trash. In fact, our neighbors just brought some groceries to us and left them on the front doorstep. From the moment I learned that I was exposed to positive cases, we've taken this quarantine seriously, because you have to stop the spread."

Italy has most coronavirus cases in Europe 02:04

Doane showed video taken of him undergoing coronavirus testing, by a health worker outfitted in protective gear.  "It's very uncomfortable," he said. "They really stick this swab up both sides of your nostrils, and then both sides of the back of your throat. You saw those were Italian health authorities who came to our apartment here in Italy.

"If you're feeling symptoms, you call a number. We also called our local doctor here in Rome. For a while they didn't want to give me the test because they said, 'You have very mild symptoms.' Italians have been incredible. They've been checking two times a day. One just called because I have a little bit of a fever now, he said now we're going to stop checking two times a day; we're going to call you three times a day to check your temperature. They've been responsive to stop any spread. They say we can't leave the house. So, health authorities suit up in those spacesuits, protective suits. It's quite alarming to have them come in your house. But they've got to stay safe as well. They came and administered the tests. We waited about 24 hours and got the results this weekend."

Doane described how life has changed in a country since the outbreak of coronavirus: "A quarantine has stopped life in many ways here in Italy," he said. "If you've been exposed to positive cases, you're not allowed to leave the house. Certainly, if you are positive yourself, you're absolutely not able to leave the house. Italians have been asked to stay at home.

"I have the form you're talking about here. If you don't have those symptoms, if you haven't been exposed to a positive case, you can have the self-declaration form where you can go out for medical needs, going to the grocery store or the pharmacy."

Those who do go out for groceries, Doane said, keep a safe distance from one another. "There are very few people on the street. They carry this form with them in case they're stopped by police."

"CBS This Morning" co-host Tony Dokoupil asked Doane, "When you have this virus, you then call people that you've had contact with to say, look, I tested positive — what's that call like? And how do people react?"

Doane replied, "Tony, it's awful. This is not what I want to be discussing on TV; it is not what I want to be known for. But I'm trying to be public and open because I think it's vital that we stop the spread of this thing. It is vital that people inform people they've had contact with."

ViacomCBS' human resources has been notifying employees who may have had contact with colleagues testing positive for COVID-19.

"I took it very personally," Doane said. "The psychological part for me has been worse than the physical part. I've tried to call or email or contact everyone I had contact with. I was feeling great. I felt totally fine. Luckily, our amazing Dr. Jon LaPook has been in touch with me every day checking, and he hopes I wasn't spreading at that point when I was feeling terrific. But really, it's too early. We don't know. I've taken it seriously to call everybody I had contact with, as difficult as it's been, to say, 'You've got to take this seriously. You have to quarantine.'"

Now that he has been diagnosed, Doane said, all that is left for him is to wait it out. "There's no treatment, exactly. There's waiting at home. They say, 'Look, you have it. All you can do is stop the spread in your house. I'm trying to be careful with my husband, who has tested negative so far, so we're trying to keep a  distance. I'm trying to sterilize as much as I can in the house. The idea is that it stops at my doorstep."

Europe reports more coronavirus deaths 02:17
  • David Morgan

    David Morgan is a senior editor at CBSNews.com and cbssundaymorning.com.