CNN anchor Brooke Baldwin’s battle with COVID-19 took her to ‘some very dark places’

Sitting in the anchor chair Monday afternoon, CNN’s Brooke Baldwin smiled broadly at the camera.

“Boy, am I glad to be back,” Baldwin said before pausing to take a deep breath. “Let me start with a thank you. Thank you for sending me so much love and prayers.”

Monday marked the longtime anchor’s first day back on the job after spending weeks sidelined as she battled a nasty case of the novel coronavirus, a harrowing experience she told viewers was “relentless and scary and lonely.”

“Covid-19 gave me a beating physically and mentally for two weeks and then I took the third just to recoup,” she said on “CNN Newsroom,” just days after revealing that she was virus free. “I never knew when it would end.”

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Like many public figures who have become infected in recent weeks, Baldwin, 40, has been forthcoming about her diagnosis, posting updates on social media and penning a lengthy essay shedding light on the experience of contracting the potentially deadly virus. Similar first-person accounts have been shared by CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, and actress and comedian Ali Wentworth, among others – all of which provide glimpses of the various ways the coronavirus can affect the human body.

For Baldwin, who announced April 3 that she had tested positive, the virus left her with fever, chills and constant body aches and robbed her of her sense of taste and smell. Baldwin is based in New York, the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States. According to most recent figures, New York has had nearly 292,000 positive cases with more than 22,500 reported deaths.

“In the evenings, I started a habit of climbing into the bathtub for 45 to 60 minutes just to try to use the hot water to distract my skin from the all-encompassing ache that would begin in my lower extremities – the kind of ache that only two extra-strength Tylenol could eventually dull,” Baldwin wrote in a “coronavirus diary” published on CNN’s website last week.

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Before losing her ability to taste or smell, Baldwin recalled that she “kept smelling the acrid ammonia-like odor of jewelry cleaner. Except there wasn’t any jewelry cleaner in sight.”

“By the next morning – wham – I couldn’t taste the salted butter on my toast, and couldn’t catch a whiff of the peppermint in my tea,” she wrote. “Along with my appetite, my energy was also zapped.”

Most days, Baldwin wrote that she would wake up “soaking wet having sweat through the sheets.” She started to take notice of a “golf-ball sized gland” bulging under her jaw – a sign, she wrote, “that my body was fighting.”

“Over two weeks, the fever, chills, and aches would sometimes leave just long enough to fool me into thinking I was finally recovering,” she wrote. “Then they would revisit me with a vengeance.”

The infection also took an emotional toll as Baldwin was cut off from work and her husband, and “left to experience the virus firsthand all by myself. Like so many others.”

Nights, she wrote, were the worst.

“I went to some very dark places,” she wrote, adding that, “under the influence of coronavirus, as each day came to a close, I would often cry, unable to stave off the sense of dread and isolation I felt about what was to come.”

At one point, things became so bad that Baldwin’s husband, who had been taking care of her with limited contact, risked exposing himself to the virus to comfort her.

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“He hated to see me suffer and he couldn’t not take care of me,” she wrote. “He began to hold me in those darker moments and let me cry, whispering: ‘Everything’s going to be all right.’ ”

Even that small amount of human contact was “restorative beyond measure,” Baldwin wrote, noting that her husband has yet to show any symptoms.

Still, despite her ordeal, Baldwin considers herself “one of the lucky ones.”

“I never struggled to breathe,” she wrote. “Even though my body constantly gave me the middle finger, my lungs did not.”

And there was a more positive side to her illness: the outpouring of support she received after going public with the news.

“I realized that sharing my own vulnerability with others online and receiving positive energy and well-wishes back brings me the gift of connection,” she wrote. “I quickly discovered how grateful I was to all of these people showing me love. It didn’t take long for me to learn to lean in and receive it. In my darker moments, I would log on to Instagram just to be lifted up by love.”

On Monday, as Baldwin acknowledged the efforts of health-care workers and scientists at the top of her show, she again took time to thank those who reached out to her while she was sick.

“Sharing your kindness and generosity with me through texts and emails and a lot of DMs on Instagram was the biggest gift I unexpectedly received these last few weeks,” she said. “It showed me how even when the world stops and takes a collective breath, we are all capable of showing up for one another.”


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