Maryn Short, 19, went to Starbucks on Dec. 1 and ordered a sweet, budget-friendly drink that she'd seen described online. The order called for whipped cream, heavy cream, five pumps of vanilla syrup and three pumps of caramel syrup — but when the teenager went to take a sip of the drink, she realized she couldn't taste anything.
Her reaction, captured in a TikTok video, shortly went viral, garnering three million views in just a few days, BuzzFeed first reported.
"This has no flavor," she said in the video, which started out with a description of the drink. "Why can't I taste it? Do I have COVID?"
"I didn't think about COVID immediately, when I realized I couldn't taste," she said. "I initially thought maybe there was too much creamer in the drink … I know heavy cream could kind of overpower the taste of some coffee, so I just figured that was what it was. The first time I was like 'This has no flavor.' And then I took a second sip and … I was like 'Wait a second. Do I have COVID?'"
After that, Short got tested twice, once with a laboratory test and once with a rapid test. Both came back positive, and she documented the experience of both of them on TikTok in an effort to encourage others to get tested if they showed symptoms of the virus.
Short said that experience of not being able to taste the drink was like nothing she'd ever had before and was difficult to describe.
"When you have COVID and you lose your taste, you can still taste this — I don't know if sensation is the word, but this idea of whatever it's supposed to be," Short explained. "I could tell that the drink was sweet. But there was just no flavor to it at all. It was super weird."
Beyond the loss of taste and smell, Short said that she has had mild symptoms. She had noticed some congestion the day before she lost her sense of taste, but had chalked that up to "drastic" weather changes in Louisiana. On Monday, she said she had a brief fever, but has recovered.
"I think with every passing day, I'm getting my taste more and more back," Short said. "... I definitely feel like there's progress being made."
During this time, Short, a nursing major, has posted lots of videos to TikTok detailing her symptoms, her treatment and more.
"I was very close to deleting the original video, because I didn't expect it to go anywhere," she explained. "It wasn't like I had a big platform or anything. I'm glad that I did keep it out because I got a lot of good feedback and people saying, 'Oh my gosh, I have the same symptoms you do, but I never would have thought I had COVID, you inspired me to get tested,' or 'I didn't know this could be a symptom, thank you for letting me know.'"
Short said she hopes her videos encourage more people to think twice about their vulnerability to the virus.
"COVID can happen to anyone, and I didn't expect it to happen to me," she said. "I have been following the necessary guidelines and everything, and I don't know if I was ignorant by thinking that COVID would never happen to me … When it did, it made me take a step back. I realized this can really come from anywhere. And I think that me posting that video did the same for a lot of people, and they're like, 'OK, maybe I should go get tested.'"