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Ellen DeGeneres was backstage at "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" when she learned she had tested positive for COVID-19, she revealed Wednesday in her first episode back after contracting the virus last month.
"Obviously there are a lot of negative things going on, so I wanted to talk about something positive: my COVID test," said DeGeneres in a clip from the episode, addressing a virtual audience that was originally supposed to attend the show she canceled in December after receiving a positive test.
DeGeneres, 62, was backstage in hair and makeup when her assistant walked in and told her she had tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
"And then everyone around me ran away. It's funny, people just really get scared. They ran and some have not come back since," she joked, adding that she "left the studio immediately" and the show's safety team reached out to everyone she had been in contact with.
Many of the show's recent guests had made virtual appearances, though a handful joined DeGeneres in the studio in December before she tested positive, including Leslie Odom, Jr. on Dec. 9, Bryan Cranston on Dec. 4, Diane Keaton on Dec. 3, Lil Nas X on Dec. 2, and Justin Bieber on Dec. 1.
The comedian returned home to quarantine, where her wife, actress Portia de Rossi, told her to sleep in a separate room "because she wanted the racecar bed all to herself." DeGeneres slept for 16 hours each the first three days due to the virus and required painkillers, muscle relaxers and steroids after waking up one morning with back spasms – the comedian said she didn't know back pain was a symptom of COVID-19, but had spoken to several others who endured similar experiences.
"It felt like I cracked a rib," she recalled. "You know how I make you laugh so hard that your ribs hurt? That's what it was like for me. Now I know how you feel."
She did not experience any other symptoms commonly associated with the virus, such as fever, headaches or loss of taste, though she did "wear Crocs with socks for a day, so you be the judge." She's "all clear" and feeling "fine now."
"The weird thing is I still don't know where I got it," she said. "I wear a mask, I washed my hands, I only licked three or four door handles, so it's a mystery how that would happen. ... I know a lot of people out there are struggling with this illness. My heart goes out to all of them. As always, I hope the show will give you some joy (and) brighten your day."
DeGeneres, 62, announced Dec. 10 that she had tested positive for the novel coronavirus but was "feeling fine right now." Meanwhile, a Telepictures spokesperson confirmed to USA TODAY that production on "Ellen" would be paused until January.
The television host said in a tweet at the time that "anyone who has been in close contact with me has been notified, and I am following all proper CDC guidelines."
COVID-19 cases continue to surge across the United States, which for the second day in a row saw more than 4,000 new cases on Tuesday. The U.S. in total has seen more than 22.8 million coronavirus cases and 380,821 deaths as of Wednesday morning, according to Johns Hopkins data. LA County, where "Ellen" tapes, continues to see positive cases, hospitalizations and deaths trending upward, according to the county's public health department data.
DeGeneres returned to the Burbank, Calif.-based studio as many Los Angeles productions shut down and other west coast late night shows such as "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" and "The Late Late Show with James Corden" return to recording from the hosts' homes.
In October, "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" became one of the first television productions to return to inviting a limited number of in-studio audience members since the coronavirus forced widespread shutdowns in the entertainment industry. Beginning Oct. 28, 40 fans attended the "Ellen" taping in person, while 70 more remained virtual. The studio generally holds about 300 audience members.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ellen DeGeneres returns to show after COVID-19 battle