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COVID-19 survivor still can’t smell or taste 4 months later

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CENTERVILLE — A Davis County man who had COVID-19 back in early March said the virus hit him hard and he is still dealing with puzzling and persistent problems.

“It’s not something you would ever want to have in your life,” said 23-year old Matt Newey, one of the first Utahns to catch COVID-19. “It is awful. I don’t wish it upon anyone.”

Newey and four friends caught COVID-19 during a ski trip to Steamboat Springs, Colorado, nearly four months ago.

The freelance photographer felt fortunate that he’s nearly back to normal, but he looks forward to the day he can enjoy food again.

“I’m feeling pretty good,” he said. “But I still can’t taste or smell.”

At first, he said, that wasn’t so bothersome. But now?

“It’s rough. It’s a chore to be able to eat. It’s not fun at all,” he said. “I’ll sit there chewing for an hour just to try to get a meal down.”

He’s lost 20 pounds.

When he bites into a lemon: no taste. Now, after several months, there is some sensation.

“There is a kind of improvement,” he said, eating the lemon. “It’s not sour. I don’t want to pucker or anything. I can sense a tiny bit of flavor, a little bit.”

He thinks what he is sensing is the acidic nature of the lemon.

Newey said his lungs are nearly back to full strength, but he has muscle aches that just won’t go away. He was able to complete a flip on a slackline only after retraining himself and repeating the flip more than 400 times.

His loss of smell has cut him off from some of his fondest memories. His grandmother passed away last fall, and when his family recently cleared her home, his inability to smell locked away those memories.

“When I walked inside of her house, I was hoping to smell her perfume,” he said. But Newey could not.

“Emotionally, it’s affected me to where I just long to feel the smell in those memories,” he said. “I want to smell her again. So I really miss out on having those experiences again.”

Newey is sharing his antibody-rich plasma as part of a clinical trial for treatments and sharing his blood with labs trying to develop rapid antibody tests.

For those who are tired of taking precautions, or think COVID-19 is no big deal, Newey warned against complacency.

“This virus doesn’t care whether we are fatigued or not,” he said. “It’s going to keep fighting, which is why we still need to keep practicing safety guidelines to make sure that we can get it controlled, because it can easily get out of hand again if we’re not careful.”

How careful should we be?

“We all kind of need to treat ourselves as if we’re all infected, treated as though everything you touch is raw chicken,” he said. “Wash your hands constantly and make sure you’re practicing good hygiene and wearing a mask because you never know.”

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Jed Boal


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