Last Thursday, I joined a comedy show at Angry Jack’s Axe Throwing Lanes. With only three other comedians and a tiny audience primarily consisting of friends, it’s bewildering that I didn’t win, given that the victor was chosen by audience vote. Nonetheless, I suspect one of my fellow comedians had COVID since I’ve now contracted it for the second time.

With the children away at college and a less stringent approach to isolation than my previous two-week confinement in the master bedroom over Christmas, my wife Berta has also developed some symptoms. Fortunately, our experience has been akin to a cold with mild achiness.

I reached out to Teladoc, and they recommended Paxlovid since I was within five days of symptom onset. We procured a pack from the local CVS and began taking it four days ago. Interestingly, Paxlovid comprises two pills: Nirmatrelvir (which combats COVID) and Ritonavir (which prolongs Nirmatrelvir’s presence in the system to enhance efficacy).

However, Ritonavir has peculiar side effects for 16% of users, including an altered or impaired sense of taste. In my case, everything tastes like rotten garbage constantly—an appalling experience. Considering my initial recovery trajectory from COVID, I question whether taking Paxlovid so late was necessary. While safety is paramount, it seems as though this medication is merely prolonging my discomfort without significantly accelerating my recovery. Frankly, I doubt Paxlovid’s impact compared to my natural healing process from COVID.
By now, I am on the mend, and even the CDC concurs that my symptoms were relatively mild. Thus, over five days since the onset of symptoms, I ought to be cleared for non-high-risk activities. While I won’t be attending large gatherings, a trip to the grocery store seems reasonable as our home is nearly devoid of food due to our illnesses.

In a couple of days, I will have surpassed the recommended 10-day period for limited exposure to others, so all should be well. However, enduring the unpleasant taste of Paxlovid in my mouth remains a challenge. With my sense of smell impaired by the COVID infection, finding something palatable to counteract this antiviral side effect proves difficult.

Curiously, I can taste orange juice, hot sauces (though only their heat intensity), and oatmeal. It’s challenging to discern whether it’s the sweetener or the oats themselves that I can detect in the oatmeal; any semblance of flavor is like a beacon in these flavorless times. I eagerly await the return of my sense of smell. Although it has shown slight improvement this morning, it is far from its usual acuity. Moreover, I hope to clear the persistent nasal congestion that greets me each morning.

With travel plans on the horizon, I am optimistic that within a week, normalcy will resume. Not only do I wish to leave this experience behind me but also relish the prospect of some immunity from COVID during my travels.