BUCYRUS — When his COVID-19 symptoms got to the point where he couldn’t breathe without coughing, Bucyrus’ police chief knew it was time to get help.

Speaking by phone Thursday, Chief David Koepke said he was "still not 100%, but much, much better."

Koepke said he first became ill on April 21, with fever and body pains. He tested positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

Bucyrus Mayor Jeff Reser has described Koepke as having been "the leader in social distancing and sanitizing" before he became ill.

"All I could speculate is I was just out around town, probably shopping somewhere — that’s the only time I was around people," Koepke said of how he contracted the illness. "Probably while I was just shopping somewhere in Bucyrus."

The symptoms intensified until the middle of last week, when Koepke went to a hospital, where he was treated as an outpatient.

"I just had to spend a few hours at the hospital, two different days," he said. "One of the triggers to be an in-patient is oxygen. They were monitoring that real close and making sure it wasn’t dipping."

In addition to the monitoring of his blood oxygen level, he had blood tests, lung X-rays and scans of his lungs, he said. "It was definitely going after my lungs and breathing."

He started taking "that controversial — which the doctor said it really wasn’t controversial — compound prescription of zinc and hydroxychloroquine."

"The coronavirus does not like zinc, so it leaves the lungs, coronavirus does, and gives the medicine a chance to work," he said. "And it worked just like the doctor described it would.

"I was able to resume breathing without coughing, because at that point, when I went to the hospital — it’s been seven days — I wasn’t breathing without coughing, essentially. "

The police chief’s wife, Carla Koepke, owner of Carle’s Bratwurst, tested negative for COVID-19.

"Could be a false negative," he said. "She had some symptoms, so she doesn’t know what she was sick with, but she’s doing better.

"They plan on being back to work at Carle’s Bratwurst on Monday, I believe."

He’s hoping to return to work Monday, too, but he’s still not completely symptom-free.

"Headaches may or may not be related to coronavirus, and just a little bit of a cough still," he said.

Koepke said he’s heard from many friends and supporters throughout his illness.

"I can’t say thank-you enough for all the kind words and encouragement," he said.

Koepke had some advice for anyone who contracts the illness.

"Just don’t hesitate to get help from the hospital, because I had never had an illness where I struggled to breathe so much," he said. "I can only speak for myself; that’s the way the symptoms really hit me. ... The doctors were just awesome, the doctors and nurses, and they really can do things to help treat it, so get help if you have it. Don’t sit around and suffer."