By Molly Zatman
For The Diamondback
Even 18 months after contracting COVID-19, Megan Kellenberger, a freshman enrolled in letters and sciences, still can’t eat chocolate.
“This kind of sounds silly, but I loved chocolate,” she said. “I love food, and it makes me happy. But it doesn’t make me as happy now, because it doesn’t taste the same.”
Like Kellenberger, some University of Maryland community members with long-haul COVID-19 — those who contracted long-term side effects after a bout with coronavirus — have struggled with the physical and mental impacts as they watch life return to a sense of normalcy. With lasting symptoms, such as difficulty breathing and total or full loss of taste and smell, watching others return to pre-pandemic routines has summoned feelings of unease and isolation for long-haulers.
Emma Fine, a sophomore psychology major, has lost her sense of taste and smell after contracting the virus over a year ago.
Fine feels that this loss has impacted her mental health.
“You feel like there’s something missing,” Fine said. “It’s like a constant reminder every single day.”
[UMD suspends QR code contact tracing strategy due to lack of effectiveness]
With a return to in-person activities, it has also begun to affect Fine’s social life. She said the fear of contracting COVID-19 for a second time keeps her from going out, especially since it’s impacted her so much.
Like Fine, Kellenberger said she also doesn’t go out as much anymore, but for a different reason. When her family contracted the virus, Kellenberger was isolated for many weeks.
“I was never very social before, but now I’m even less so, because I just got used to being alone,” Kellenberger said.
Olivia Rutigliano, a sophomore environmental science and policy and management major, was left with severe effects from getting COVID-19 in July 2020. She said for several months after contracting COVID-19, she experienced symptoms and was afraid of getting others sick.
[College Park could use pandemic relief funds for affordable housing, broadband]
And Rutigliano says her experience with long-haul COVID-19 symptoms has left her more wary of the virus.
“Whenever I’m anywhere, I always think about the potential for COVID to be there,” she said. “It’s still ingrained in me … it’s always in the back of my mind.”
Rutigliano says after she got vaccinated, her symptoms disappeared. She feels safer on campus, saying the university has done a good job with their COVID-19 safety guidelines.
But for others, there seems to be no end to long-haul COVID-19 symptoms in sight.
“I’m probably never going to go back to the way it was,” Fine said. “I’m probably never going to get my taste back. I’m never gonna be back to that normal state before COVID.”