This is the Scariest Part About COVID-19
In just a few short months, COVID-19 found a way to flip our lives upside-down.
Most countries found safe and efficient ways to contain the spread of the virus and avoid many potential casualties. The United States, though, is far from having this kind of security. We’re still experiencing surging infection rates, high death rates, school and business closures, and various other consequences to what can only be described as our country’s shameful negligence in regards to the novel coronavirus.
So why are we still in denial?
Well, I’ve found that people love to use statistics as a way of diminishing COVID-19. They love to use this data to gaslight people, saying that the virus’ incredibly high survival doesn’t warrant this kind of global response.
So let me reason with that for a second. Stay with me.
Why do we care so much about a virus that has a 99% survival rate?
(This is the defense that I usually hear anti-maskers and COVID-doubters use.) Well, where do we begin?
Let me start by saying that you’re only partially right about that 99% survival rate.
According to Worldometer, the infection fatality rate of COVID-19 is actually about 1.4%, so that means about 98.6% of people survive — not 99% or more, as many people claim. Keep in mind, also, that this data was collected in May 2020, before cases and deaths again started surging in places like the US and Brazil. Actually, by now, the infection fatality rate is likely even higher than 1.4%. Regardless, the survival rate isn’t quite as high as it is rumored to be.
It’s been less than a year since COVID-19 made its debut, and that affects the statistics.
We have no idea what the infection rates or survival rates of COVID-19 are going to look like in the coming months. It’s been less than a year since we even discovered the novel coronavirus. So why are we comparing it against decade- or even century-old sicknesses like influenza? Those diseases have had years to flatten out and give accurate, reasonable data about infection and death rates. COVID-19, on the other hand, is already this severe, and it’s only been a year. We have no way of determining that COVID is any less severe than something like chicken pox or the flu because it hasn’t been long enough to fairly compare data.
COVID-19 is also highly manageable — we’re just choosing not to manage it.
Are we saying that those 1.4% who die don’t matter? Are we saying that we just don’t care about them? Honestly, that’s despicable. Yes, you might be statistically more likely to die in a car accident than get sick with COVID-19. But we still wear a seatbelt, right? Because we’re trying to prevent the casualties. When something is preventable, you take precautions. Period. Why are we not holding ourselves to this same standard in the era of COVID-19?
But the scariest part about COVID-19 is that we have no idea what its long-term health effects are.
Maybe the fatality rate doesn’t scare you. Maybe the raw statistics don’t convince you. Maybe you don’t give a crap about managing COVID-19 even if you have the resources to do so. But I urge you to hear this.
We need to think about what’s unknown about COVID-19, and the frightening long-term effects it can have on us.
There’s something even scarier than mortality at stake here, and that’s the long-lasting impact of COVID-19 on people. Sure, some people get it and make a full recovery with no plausible long-term impact. But some people become infected with COVID-19 and continue to face challenges even after recovery. And again — it’s been less than a year. It’s terrifying how little we know about the long-term impact of this virus.
Many COVID-19 patients still had fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, headaches, and confusion for months after recovering.
(And yes, this includes patients who were not labelled “high-risk” or immunocompromised at the time of infection.) This is especially frightening because if patients are still suffering from these symptoms in the short-term, the long-term health complications could be even worse.
Dr. Roger A. Alvarez, a doctor in the University of Miami healthcare system, found that people who were previously infected with COVID-19 became highly susceptible to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Usually, people who develop ARDS need a ventilator for breathing support and can be in very critical condition. Even those who do survive ARDS tend to struggle with it long after being sick, and normally need to routinely see lung specialists and primary care doctors to monitor their health.
Aside of things like respiratory complications and ARDS, patients can also struggle with other cardiovascular, physical, and cognitive difficulties. According to Science Magazine, “one group in Italy found that 87% of a patient cohort hospitalized for acute COVID-19 was still struggling 2 months later.” That means that people with even acute cases of COVID-19 are feeling the intensity of this illness, and it spans far further than infection.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NIH) also explores the critical damage of COVID-19, citing a study from China that found that in 20% of mildly-symptomatic patients, COVID-19 caused severe lung injuries and heart arrhythmias — two conditions that can last a lifetime. These patients were presumably lower-risk and appeared to have recovered from the disease before finding that they had critical lung and heart complications.
Chronic fatigue and brain fog are also possible effects of COVID-19.
About 35% of recovered US COVID-19 patients reported increased fatigue even weeks or months after recovery, says CNN, reporting from a July survey conducted by the CDC. Even New York governor Andrew Cuomo has weighed in on the long-term effects of the coronavirus. Cuomo, who became ill with the disease himself, has discussed his struggles with depression symptoms, fatigue, and brain fog.
Even children, who are supposedly the lowest-risk group in regards to COVID-19, can experience horrifying consequences to the disease.
An NBC news article tells the story of Nia Haughton, a 15-year-old from London who experienced cognitive difficulties after falling ill with the coronavirus. Haughton had hallucinations, hear voices, and become confused about her surroundings in the weeks after recovery. When Dr. Ming Lim took on Haughton’s case, he diagnosed her with a encephalitis (brain inflammation), which interfered with her brain development. Dr. Lim is concerned that other children with COVID-19 might suffer from things like inflammation and other cognitive complications that would affect their brain growth and cause permanent damage.
Here’s the bottom line: there’s a lot that we don’t know, and it’s best to be cautious.
We won’t know the true effects of COVID-19 until we are given a legitimate time frame in which to study them. Less than a year is not a long enough time period to begin investigating the consequences of a disease such as this one. And yes, the high survival rate is one thing that tends to make people fearless of COVID-19, but survival rate is only one part of the bigger picture. Even if one does survive, the effects of the virus can be so debilitating and severe that they are enough to change our lives forever.
We’re all in the interest of going “back to normal.” We all want our freedoms back. I don’t think many people truly enjoy staying inside their homes or distancing from friends or wearing a mask everywhere they go. But we do it because we care about keeping each other safe and to protect one another from everything we do know about this disease — and everything we don’t yet know.
When prevention and management is possible for a crisis such as this one, it’s in our best interest to practice it.
Especially when the future is unknown — and there is so much at stake.