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Loved Ones Remember Ohioans Lost To COVID: 'They Are More Than Just A Number'

Woohyung Shim was one of the first COVID-19 victims in Columbus.
Courtesy of Sam Shim
Woohyung Shim was one of the first COVID-19 victims in Columbus.

Woohyung Shim was one of the first COVID-19 victims in Columbus. His son Sam says the nursing home unit where he lived lost more than half of its 34 residents within two weeks.

“When my dad was first diagnosed with COVID, it was Saturday,” Sam Shim says. “By the following Thursday, he was gone from us. We were quite shocked at how fast it progressed and shocked by how many of his fellow residents also lost their lives to COVID-19.”

Nearly 18,000 Ohioans have died of the virus, according to the Ohio Department of Health. More than a third of those have happened in long-term care facilities like the one where Woohyung Shim lived.

Especially early on in the pandemic, the unknowns of the disease and infection risks meant the final days of people like Woohyung were spent largely alone.

“My mom and I would stop by outside his window, outside his room every day just to take a peek and see how he’s doing," Shim says. "His nurse would bring him to the window to, we could wave at him and he could see us, and we could see the downward progression over the last few days."

Woohyung was an ordained minister, and Shim says he was a passionate man – passionate about his beliefs, passionate about doing what’s right, passionate about the community he served.

“There were people always coming or going seeking my dad’s advice, whether it was in a religious sense or just learning how to adapt in our country, as my dad came from Korea back in 1971,” Shim says.

He misses his dad, and he knows he’s not alone. Thousands of families in Ohio are grieving similar losses, and Shim says honoring their dead loved ones will be crucial to moving forward.

“They are more than just a number, they are more than just the damage from a pandemic,” Shim says. “These are real people who lost their lives and these are real people who are impacted by their death.”

What questions do you have about COVID-19 and Ohio's response? Ask below as part of WOSU's series A Year Of COVID.


Clare Roth was former All Things Considered Host for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU in February of 2017. After attending the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, she returned to her native Iowa as a producer for Iowa Public Radio.