COVID-19 Hits 99 Cigars

It was a fairly non-descript Monday. Aside from the fact that the sun was prohibited from shining, dictated by cold, gray clouds, January 25, 2021 began, like most workdays, filled with planned activities that included endless meetings, a bloated to-do list and rapidly approaching deadlines. And despite the brooding weather, this day, in a brand new year, firmly held the promise of bringing even a small escape from our pandemic-induced, locked down reality, and perhaps a temporary stay from the dire predictions of a terrible second wave of COVID-19, through the daily musings of our beloved cigars.

Yet as this Monday progressed, my energy and strength began to disappear like the green line of a health meter as a video game hero takes a pounding. My muscles and joints began to ache, I sensed the familiar warmth of a fever behind my eyes and I developed what would come to define my bout with COVID-19: the worst, seemingly endless, hangover I’ve ever experienced in my life. Yet, I’d done my part. I worked from home. I only went out when I had to, I wore my masks religiously and kept my distance. I Zoomed and WebExed my way through the last year to keep our businesses going. And despite these efforts, somehow I intuitively knew that there was a virus out there with my name on it and I was just biding my time. As I look back on it now, I think the inevitability of it allowed me to move on with life which left me simply rationalizing, ‘let the cards fall where they may.’

A myriad of over-the-counter and prescription meds needed to combat COVID-19

My story is not unique and most importantly, I’m recovering and feeling more like myself. I’m still here which makes me one of the lucky ones. There are millions people, of all ages, who sadly didn’t get the option of recovery. I also didn’t require worrisome late-night trips to the ER nor did I have to endure a prolonged hospital stay on a ventilator or a stint in ICU like a couple of good friends of mine. I got to recover in the safety, warmth and comfort of my home, surrounded by family (also afflicted with this wretched virus) and an endless matinee of movies and TV shows ala Netflix, Amazon Prime and Apple TV.

Unfortunately, one of the most commonly reported side effects of COVID-19, is the loss of smell and taste. As some research has reported, over 80% of COVID-19 patients have reported some level of smell and taste loss which can be either temporary or in extreme cases, chronic. Outside of the typical loss of smell due to nasal congestion and drainage which physically blocks aromas and odors from reaching the olfactory system, several research papers suggest that the SARS-COV-2 virus has a tropism (cell preference) for nerves/neurons throughout the olfactory (sensory system for sense of smell) complex. The resulting inflammation to the nasal tract and surrounding nerve complex is what inhibits our ability to smell, and indirectly, taste (gustatory system), which also contributes to the overall chemosensory system.

Patrick J. Lynch, medical illustrator

I lost my sense of smell/taste within a few days after general COVID-19 symptom onset, which for a cigar geek and reviewer is the proverbial kiss of death, since the nose and palate are THE two set of senses critical for evaluating cigars. Tomorrow marks 21 days since COVID-19 first visited me and while my health is approaching 100% overall, my sense of smell/taste remains elusive. In fact, like other patients struggling to enjoy daily vices like a hot cup of coffee, I actually experience “ghost” smells 24/7, a false set of odors that are not connected with anything in my immediate environment. I understand now this can vary widely, from vinegar- and other salty-like sensations to a variety of bizarre odors that border on the unpleasant. My “ghost” odor du jour is a combination of old house paint and dirty feet. And its constant.

It is our sincerest hope that all of you stay healthy and stay the course as we get through some of these crises together. While there are many conflicting stories, reports, assertions and conjecture flooding our society regarding the pandemic and the virus, we urge everyone to get as many facts as you can from reputable sources, including scientific stalwarts like the CDC. No, they’re not perfect, but they and a host of other research-based entities offer plenty in the way of good information you can use to protect yourself and those you care about. At the end of the day, in addition to the official precautions we can take, always remember to exercise good judgement and common sense and hopefully you won’t get laid up feeling crappy with a hangover that feels like you survived a 2-day tequila bender and stuck watching the Star Wars saga 7 times or have to deal with the constant odor of old paint and dirty feet.

Jay Lawrence

So, while we are on hiatus for reviews for the foreseeable, albeit hopefully short, future, we will continue to bring you news and features on stories, events and gear that matter most. Thanks to all of you for continuing to visit and support 99 Cigars as we couldn’t do, what we do, without…you! – In Fumo Pax!

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