Can COVID-19 Cause Memory Loss? Coronavirus Survivors Describe 'Fog' and 'Missed Days' While Sick

A person rubs their head.
Getty Images reporter and producer Maya Chung, who is recovering from coronavirus, says she experienced memory fog during the height of her illness. 

In a candid conversation with his close friend Will Smith, DJ Jazzy Jeff said he experienced memory loss and forgot 10 days of his life while fighting the novel coronavirus. Speaking to Smith on his Snapchat show, “Will From Home,” Jazz said he got home from traveling in March and experienced COVID-19 symptoms, but could not get tested. 

“I came home from my trip, you know, I feel like I’m coming down with something,” Jazz, whose real name is Jeffrey Allen Townes, said. “Got into bed – don’t remember the next 10 days. My temperature had reached about 103 degrees. I had chills, I lost smell, I lost sense of taste.”

While he said he could not get a test for COVID-19, he got tested for the flu as well as had chest X-rays done and it showed that he had pneumonia in both of his lungs. While those are common symptoms associated with the coronavirus, it appears memory fog or memory loss may be another sign of COVID-19. However, it has not officially been declared a symptom by the CDC or World Health Organization. 

“Fatigue, tiredness, brain fog, flat-lining and an inability to arise after sleeping are all potential symptoms of a COVID-19 infection,” Express reported. “Some people have reported feeling a brain fog, also known as mental fatigue, as another symptom of coronavirus.”

Berit Brogaard, D.M.Sci., Ph.D., a professor and the director of the Brogaard Lab for Multisensory Research at the University of Miami, wrote in PsychologyToday that “One study found that almost half of patients with severe respiratory symptoms from COVID-19 also had neurological symptoms, including stroke, brain hemorrhage, and impaired consciousness.”

“I think we are going to have to see what [memory loss and memory fog] is like after we have more experience with coronavirus,” Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, Deputy Commissioner for the Division of Disease Control of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, told Only then can those experiences be confirmed or ruled out as symptoms. 

“There have been a lot of neurological manifestations people are talking about and what I have seen in my own patients; as an anecdote, is some people are reporting losing smell and taste, which is not something we heard about except for a couple reports,” Daskalakis added. 

It is not uncommon for a virus to affect a person neurologically, he said, noting he would not be surprised if that was the case with COVID-19. “I want to know more before I can directly say,” he continued. reporter and producer Maya Chung, who is recovering from the coronavirus, said she experienced memory fog during the height of her illness. 

“My brain fog was mild, like someone can just chalk it up to carelessness, but it was there,” she said. “I went to throw out the garbage and put on my gloves and mask, went outside and threw my keys deep into the garbage, which is something I would never do.”

Chung, who began to feel symptoms on March 24, was officially diagnosed on April 4. She explained that some days during the illness, she would “feel well enough to do things,” but one day, she was making dinner and put the wrong food in the microwave to heat up. 

“You forget what you had done,” she explained. 

In another instance she was speaking to her mother about the virus and could not properly articulate what she was feeling. While Chung’s bout with COVID-19 was considered mild, she did experience the common symptoms such as body aches, loss of smell, fever, nausea and chest tightness. 

Still, for Chung, and likely many others, “the scary thing is no one knows the long term effects of this,” she said.