DENVER — A month ago, almost to the day, Matt Newey and four of his friends contracted the novel coronavirus.
"It's been a whole month since I first started having symptoms, and man it's been a roller coaster," said 23-year-old Newey. "I feel like my immune system has been trying to find any creative way to fight this thing off."
Newey and his friends live in Salt Lake City, Utah, but their COVID-19 story started in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
"I got together with four of my buddies and we were like, 'Let's go to Steamboat Springs and ski together,'" Newey said.
They started out on their road trip on Friday, March 13. Newey said — looking back, he said Friday the 13th wasn't the luckiest day to strike out.
They hadn't been in Steamboat even a day when they got a startling alert.
"We get this text alert saying ski resorts in Colorado are shutting down and Steamboat was shutting down, as well." After that, Newey said, they were nervous.
"I was sitting on the ski lift with some guy from Washington D.C. and another person from Europe," Newey said, "and as I’m talking to them I'm just like, oh no..."
They headed home, just hoping they hadn't gotten it. Newey said he was most worried about exposing his parents or his sister to COVID-19.
They found out almost right away, they brought back more than they bargained for.
"One of my friends asked, 'Hey, is anybody else feeling really tired and sluggish this morning?' And then we all kind of start chipping in like, 'Yeah, I feel really weird too. What's going on?'"
Newey just happened to have a doctor's appointment scheduled for that week. He called it a miracle.
"The doctor was like, 'Holy cow you have a fever of 101 right now,'" he said.
His doctor tested him for the flu, but within 10 minutes the test came back negative. The doctor and nurses then suited up in PPE and prepared to test Newey for COVID-19. They told him he'd have results in 48 hours. In the meantime, the doctor instructed him to quarantine.
"I got home," Newey said, "I parked my truck and my whole family walks out. I was like, 'Stay away! Clear the area!'"
Newey quarantined in the basement of his family home, and encouraged his ski trip friends to do the same. A day later, his doctor called.
His test came back positive for COVID-19.
"My heart just pounded," Newey said.
Not only was Newey positive for COVID, but over the next few days, all four of his friends were tested and all of their tests came back positive, too.
"For awhile I kind of had speculation that maybe it was a false positive," Newey said. "But once I had all of my other friends test positive for the virus that were on that same trip with me, it became real."
A month later, Newey is no longer contagious and his sister has finally let him out of quarantine, but Newey is still recovering.
"I feel like it really damaged my lungs and my asthma is much worse," he said. He's also still without his sense of taste and smell.
"I did all these experiments," Newey said a few weeks after testing positive for coronavirus. "I smelled my sister’s perfume, I tried smelling vinegar. I smelled an onion and I smelled nothing."
Newey is sharing his experience because he's hoping others, especially young adults, can learn from it.
"People my age don’t seem to be taking it as serious," Newey said. "There are a lot of people out there who think they’re invincible and that this virus won’t affect them. I just want to share that my experience really woke me up to the seriousness of this virus and how easily it's spread and how contagious it is."
"I’m a young adult. I get it - it’s hard to stay inside and social distance, but it’s more important now than ever to help stop this spread and protect not only ourselves but our loved ones," he said.
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