Maryn Short, 19, has been quarantining at home over the past week after she tested positive for COVID-19. She realized she may have been infected when she filmed a TikTok of herself trying a Starbucks drink trend and could not taste much.
The moment of her realization — and subsequent confusion and panic — was captured in a TikTok she later shared that's gone viral.
Short told BuzzFeed News she was expecting the drink to be "super sweet" because it consisted of whipped cream, five pumps of vanilla syrup, and three pumps of caramel.
Instead, she could only make out a creamy taste. "It was almost like I was drinking sweet milk. I could tell it was sweet, but there was no flavor at all," she said. "It was really strange. It’s hard to describe."
As you see in the TikTok, Short reacts after taking a sip and says, "This has no flavor. Why can't I taste it? Do I have COVID?"
Short works three part-time jobs and said other than work and buying groceries, she has been staying home during the pandemic. She had no noticeable symptoms other than noting that on Sunday she woke up with some congestion, but thought it was probably due to the changing weather.
After work on Monday, she decided to stop at a local Starbucks to try a drink concoction that was trending on the app because it was supposed to be a delicious and affordable venti order.
"I was excited to try it," she said, adding that the drink was supposed to taste like a caramel macchiato, which she "gets a lot." But she soon realized either there was something wrong with how the drink was made...or something was wrong with her.
"I almost was wondering if [the barista] put too much heavy cream in it. And then I really thought about it, and I was like, Oh my goodness."
She said she called her mom immediately, who advised her to get tested right away. She then called her employers, who she said were all "super understanding." The earliest appointment for a rapid response test Short could make was the next morning, so she went home.
While waiting for results, she recorded herself tasting other foods, like a pizza, which she said she could taste, but it was "faint."
Short said posting her video, and it going viral, was both intentional and accidental. Her mom initially advised her against it, and she took it down for a while for a fear it would send the wrong message.
"My mom asked me to take it down because at the time I didn’t know I had COVID. She was like, 'Look, if you haven’t gotten tested yet, take it down.' So I did," said Short.
However, that night as she was describing the unfortunate incident to her friends, she reposted it.
"COVID is not funny, but I thought the video itself was funny because...I have very unfortunate events that constantly happen to me. I was like, Of course something like this would happen to me."
The next morning, she woke up to 100,000 likes. It currently has almost 700,000 likes, and it's been viewed almost 3 million times.
On Tuesday, she also got her first COVID test back, which was positive. (Short took a second, non-rapid response COVID test because she said she wanted results to be certain.) She provided both positive test results to BuzzFeed News.
Fortunately, Short has not had many other COVID symptoms besides her lack of taste and some stuffiness. She said she ran a fever earlier this week, but she's been feeling fine, more or less. She plans to quarantine for at least 10 days or until all of her symptoms subside, as her doctor advised.
Short said she ultimately hopes her video serves as both a comical and sobering reminder that anyone can be a carrier of the virus unknowingly.
"I’m glad I did put [the TikTok] back up because a lot of people that were commenting said I made people realize they should get tested," she said. "Whenever people think of COVID, especially kids my age, we’re told to please stay safe for our elders. I don’t think people think about people in their teens or twenties getting COVID."
She added that she's particularly surprised she contracted it because she's been following public health mandates.
"COVID doesn’t have an age limit. It doesn’t have an expiration date. It’s just so new and it’s constantly evolving," she said. "Be responsible, follow guidelines — I know guidelines are different for every state, but don’t be defiant. ... It really upsets me because people think they’re above whatever’s happening right now."