Meet 17 Coronavirus Survivors Under 30 Who Could Have You Rethinking the Disease

Several young Americans in California, New York, New Jersey and other states share messages that prove the Coronavirus can impact any age group.

By Mike Vulpo Jul 11, 2020 7:00 AMTags
Watch: Coronavirus Survivor Details COVID-19 Experience

Attention any and all Americans: People of all ages can be infected by the Coronavirus.

That's what the World Health Organization proclaims as states continue to see hundreds and even thousands of new cases everyday. 

And while WHO says older people and people with pre-existing medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus, doctors have seen young people across the country suffer when diagnosed with COVID-19.

"I want young people to know that, yes most of the time, they will be fine but there are many cases where the presence of SARS CoV 2 [the virus that causes COVID-19] leads to a profound amount of inflammation resulting in organ failure and death. That's what I have seen in the ICU," Orange County, Calif., pulmonary/critical care Doctor Cedric "Jamie" Rutland shared with E! News. "But, probably most importantly, the asymptomatic young adults who are not wearing a mask or participating in social distance may be spreading it to vulnerable parents and grandparents."

The American Lung Association national spokesperson, who has not treated the individuals highlighted below, added, "I am not asking you to walk on water…I am just saying, 'Don't get wet.' Wear the mask and participate in some social distancing."

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If professional doctors aren't enough to grab the attention of people, perhaps these brave individuals will.


We talked to several young Americans from across the country who tested positive for Coronavirus and described symptoms of extreme fatigue, loss of smell and taste and weeks of discomfort.

While they can call themselves survivors today, they have messages to people their age who have their doubts about just how serious this virus is. 

Olga Mendoza, 29

+ Calgary, Canada

Soon after Olga's dad was diagnosed with Coronavirus because of an outbreak at his work, the 29-year-old received similar symptoms including loss of smell, shortness of breath and a few days "where my body hurt more than it ever has before."

"Coronavirus is not just about you. Sure, because you are young, if you get it then you will most likely recover, but personally seeing how it affects other people, we really need to be more conscious about following recommendations from the experts," Olga explained. "I know that we all want things to go back to normal, but I think this is a time where we need to put others above ourselves. We can't just wait until it affects us or someone we love to believe it's a real threat."

Hana Neugebauer, 20

+ Orinda, California

During her final days of studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain, Hana started getting a cough. Once she returned home to the states, other symptoms including shortness of breath, fever and chest pain began to appear. "My sister got the antibody test and it came back positive but she felt zero symptoms so I must have given it to her during the time I was contagious," Hana shared with us.

"I do strongly believe that young adults need to take precaution because their actions do affect other people," she continued. "What I've learned from this is just to be mindful of my own personal actions. I think it's easy to overlook how personal everyday decisions can affect other people.  It has also taught me how important our health is and how it is super crucial to take care of our bodies. We are only given one body in this lifetime and we must take care of it!"

Kevin Chiu, 28

+ New York City 

In March, doctors first diagnosed Kevin with the flu. But when his symptoms worsened, an X-Ray in the emergency room confirmed Kevin had Coronavirus, which had penetrated his lungs. "I was extremely weak, had a hard time breathing, chills throughout my body, lethargic and many of the other common symptoms of COVID. A few weeks later I was in the ICU, intubated on a life support ventilator with my condition being significant worse," he shared with E! News. "I was on and off the ventilator with doctors pumping a bunch of antibiotics and drugs into my body without certainty what would work." While he was COVID-free by April, Kevin says he still has long-term recovery issues including fatigue and lung scarring.

"Coronavirus is a very real thing. Not only old people get it and you don't want to be one of the unlucky young ones," he shared with us. "Wear your mask and follow the recommended safety precautions."

Marielle Galanto, 28

+ Denver, Colorado 

Marielle's story may remind some Americans of the risk you take while flying during a pandemic. "I think I may have gotten infected on a flight from LAX to Denver. There was a lady two seats away who kept coughing and not wearing a mask," the pharmacist shared with E! News. "My first symptom didn't show up until exactly 14 days later but I wasn't exposed to any other symptomatic person." Nineteen days after her first symptoms appeared, Marielle felt she had recovered.

"You must be prepared to face it full on; I'm not just talking about coping with short term/long term symptoms but the financial burden of it all," Marielle warned. "I went to the emergency department twice and have to pay thousands of dollars in hospital bills when they barely treated me and denied me testing."

Kate Godbold, 29

+ Manhattan, New York

When living in New York back in March, Kate knew that the city was overwhelmed with hospitalizations making testing availability difficult. But after being symptomatic for more than three weeks and testing positive for antibodies, Kate believes she battled—and recovered from— Coronavirus.

"Back in March—and probably still true to this day—many thought the younger generations weren't nearly as affected by Coronavirus, but that's certainly not true," Kate shared with E! News. "Between me and my friends alone, we all experienced a variety of symptoms and levels of illness...I was lucky but I had two friends that were sick enough that they had to go to the hospital."

Sam Spector & Julie Becker, 25

+ Hoboken, New Jersey

When St. Patrick's Day arrived, Sam and his girlfriend started feeling symptoms like high fever and extreme fatigue. Ultimately, the couple would test positive for COVID-19 and endure three weeks of discomfort before feeling back to normal. "I think the greatest lesson we learned was to value your time with friends and family because you don't know when it can be taken away form you," the couple shared with E! News. "We took advantage of this quarantine once we fully recovered and got engaged on April 4th. We were happy to bring a positive moment during this otherwise somber time."

Joely Tenenbaum, 21

+ Los Angeles

After studying abroad in Italy and Spain, Joely returned to Southern California in March where she began experiencing a high fever, full body aches and chills. She later tested positive for Coronavirus. "Once I got home from Europe, I isolated myself in my bedroom and did not touch or see anyone outside of my household," Joely shared. "I am beyond thankful that I was this proactive because I don't want to imagine what could've happened if I had seen my grandparents, friends and family before my symptoms showed up. My decision to be proactive and remain in isolation saved everyone around me from getting infected by me."

Joely continued, "Not taking the spread of the virus seriously is a selfish decision as it is not only impacting you but also innocent people all around you. As much as it sucks having to stay home and miss out on summer plans, it is worth it for the greater good of everyone around us."

Ciana Puckett, 24

+ Yuma, Arizona

Shortly after Memorial Day, Ciana was directed to return to work where it turned out someone tested positive for COVID-19. While the majority of her symptoms eased after a month, Ciana admits her taste and smell have not fully returned. "I wish I had known someone my age who was experiencing COVID-19 because I was very scared of the virus before contracting it," Ciana shared with E! News. "Keep an open line of communication with your local health department about any concerns you have and reach out to friends and family for moral support as you recover."

She continued, "My greatest lesson from going through COVID-19 is that it's okay to slow down sometimes. You might just find your time at home quarantined as a time to find new hobbies, clean and organize things you may not have had the time to otherwise, call your loved ones more often and most of all rest. Do not be afraid!"

Bryanna DeFazio, 28

+ Carney's Point, New Jersey

If you ask Bryanna, she would be comfortable saying she's a "pretty healthy 28-year-old" with no pre-existing conditions. But when she was diagnosed with Coronavirus, ordinary tasks became very difficult. "While I was sick, something as simple as taking a shower could cause me to be short of breath and dizzy," she explained to E! News. "I remember getting out of the shower and just laying on the floor, because I didn't have the energy to dry or get dressed."

Today, Bryanna is feeling better and able to see a few positives in her experience. "This is such an abnormal time and everything seems so confusing, but it is important to remain calm and educated," she shared. "It helped me to start a little project to promote good mental health; I created Sheila, my She-Shed! I also meditated, learned to sew, made a few TikToks, used my essential oils and spent some quality time with my boyfriend." 

Jennifer Guterman, 30

+ New York City

At just 30 years old, Jennifer tested positive for Coronavirus and later learned she had pneumonia in both of her lungs. "I got admitted to a floor where my oxygen worsened and the discussion of intubation occurred if I continued to go downhill," Jennifer shared with E! News. While she showed signs of improvement and was released from the hospital days later, the registered nurse admits it's still a "roller coaster."

"It's an unsolvable game of 'Guess Who?' trying to figure out who exposed you to the virus when it is so potent in an overpopulated and clustered area like New York City as well as being easily transmittable," she explained. "What I want young people to know is that you are not the exception. This isn't a disease that mimics the flu nor is it one that only affects those with chronic conditions and the elderly. The virus does not discriminate and everyone is at risk." 

Kelly Newman, 22

+ Longview, Texas

Because she is high-risk for COVID-19 due to her autoimmune conditions, Kelly was staying home and avoiding crowds. But because she lives with people who are on the front lines working, the 22-year-old believes she couldn't avoid the virus. 

"We are not invincible and we need to do our part to help end this massive spread of COVID-19. I also think it's necessary to point out how incredible the human body is and how wonderful it is to see the fight those in serious condition have to pull through," Kelly shared with E! News. "It is just a reminder that we all need to do our part to help keep others around us safe and to stop being a selfish population only concerned with ourselves."

Jessica Finn, 23, & Jillian Finn, 21

+ New York City 

While visiting a friend studying abroad in Barcelona, Jessica and Jillian made the decision to cancel part of their trip after seeing Coronavirus spread. "After returning home, we found out we had come in contact with multiple people there who were testing positive with the virus," the sisters told E News. 

While getting the virus was far from ideal, Jessica is grateful she and her sister were able to recover together. "It was nice having each other because we quarantined together for two weeks. We watched movies together, cooked, did a lot together having to quarantine away from our mom and other sister that we also live with," she shared. "Best of all? We are now able to donate plasma and blood together."

Haley Kitts, 29

+ Raleigh, North Carolina

Back in June, Haley tested positive for Coronavirus after experiencing body aches, headaches, fatigue and loss of taste and smell. "I tried everything in my pantry to see if I could recognize anything I once knew and loved," she recalled to E! News. "I was wearing my Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue perfume every day to see if I could smell the citrus scent, but sadly, I could not."

Haley advised people to sleep and rest as much as they can if they get the virus. In fact, she slept for 16 hours straight the night before her sense of taste returned. "I have a new lease on life! I got a second chance to live and I'm not going to waste it," she explained.  "I'm going to worry less and love deeper. I know there were a lot of people not as lucky as myself so I'm going to try and live every day to the fullest."

Darin Milovich, 28

+ Nashville, Tennessee

While Darin never lost her sense of smell or taste, she developed a dry cough and experienced body aches, fatigue and a fever. "Luckily all my friends and co-workers tested negative after I told them I had it. Knowing I could have passed it on to a friend or their family made me feel extremely guilty," Darin shared with E! News. "Be safe and take extra precautions. Wear a mask!"

Daniel Berger, 20

+ Livingston, New Jersey

After studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain, the University of Maryland journalism student came home with the Coronavirus. "Although it was hard to tell my parents, who hadn't seen me in months, to not embrace me and to stay away from me, I am so thankful I did," Daniel shared. "I kept my distance from my family and insisted I not touch anything in the house for at least two weeks. Although it was annoying to rely on my family for basic things like water and food, it was the right thing to do and because of this, no one at home caught the virus from me."

"This is a global issue and every person has to do his or her part in order to combat it," Daniel continued. We all miss the old world, but this is not a process you can rush through or pretend it's not there."

For the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic and for tips on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19, please visit The Center for Disease Control and Prevention at To plan your vaccine, head to NBC's Plan Your Vaccine site at