Exclusive: During bout with COVID-19, DJ Jazzy Jeff says he suffered pneumonia, memory loss

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By KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Jeff Townes, aka DJ Jazzy Jeff, is on the mend after a bout with COVID-19. But for a while, he wasn’t sure if he would even recover.

“I’ve been sick, but I never been sick like that,” said the Philadelphia native. “I would not want my worst enemy to go through what I been through.”

First, it was just body aches, which came on while he was shopping for groceries. His symptoms appeared a few days before California enacted a stay-at-home order, which quickly spread to other states.

“I went home and I got in the bed, and I almost barely don't remember the next 10 days,” he recalled, noting he had at least two really dark moments. “I was like, I cannot believe this is how I'm going out.”

Townes was diagnosed with pneumonia in both lungs. Eventually, he started to get better, and he’s grateful his wife kept him going. However, his wife and mother-in-law quickly contracted the virus.

His mother-in-law got extremely ill.

“And you're beating yourself down because I'm realizing I'm the culprit,” he said.

Fortunately, everyone has since recovered, but the effects of the disease still linger.  

“There’s so much of the unknown, that I don’t want to leave the house,” said Townes. During his first trip outside post-coronavirus, he said he experienced extreme anxiety. “I am really shook right now. It was anxiety like I have never had. The scariest thing about this whole thing is, you don’t know.”

COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting African-Americans, especially in urban areas like Chicago, Detroit and New Orleans.

In Philadelphia, black people make up the largest percentage of virus-related deaths. 

When Townes saw photos and videos circulating online of black youth ignoring social-distancing guidelines, he started making his own Instagram posts with the hashtag #KeepYoAssInTheHouse — a lighthearted way to encourage everyone to follow the rules and stay safe.

“It’s an invisible killer that you don’t realize that you could be carrying,” he explained. “It doesn’t have to infect you, but you can infect someone else, and the best way to deal with this is to just stay in the house and let this ride through.”

Townes also shared his story with “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” co-star Will Smith on Instagram.

A post shared by Will Smith (@willsmith) on Apr 15, 2020 at 7:03am PDT

He told Smith he had a 103-degree temperature and lost his sense of smell and taste.

By sharing his experiences, he hopes to encourage people in high-risk communities to get serious about social distancing — with a little help from music, too.

Townes spins records from home on Saturdays via Facebook Live for hundreds of thousands of viewers, with the same message: #KeepYoAssInTheHouse.

“If I can make people dance in their kitchen while they make a sandwich and stay in the house, then that is what I am going to do,” he said.