Some 100,000 New Yorkers may face debilitating long-term health effects after falling ill to Covid-19, according to “What If You Never Get Better?” in the most recent issue of The New York Times Magazine.
That is a staggering number of people who may suffer from “long-haul Covid,” a seemingly inexplicable malaise with a wide range of symptoms, from general fatigue and achiness to severe joint stiffness and pain, heart palpitations and “brain fog,” described as a rush of emotion and thought, as if all the brain’s synapses were misfiring at once, leading to confusion and memory loss. Some have called it a “brain hurricane.”
Similar effects were described by patients who fell ill during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-19, long after the outbreak had waned. That is telling us that the effects of the coronavirus pandemic may be with us for years to come.
Most long-haul Covid patients are women, according to The Times. Long-haulers, it’s believed, may suffer from an extreme overreaction of the body’s immune system to the coronavirus. Testosterone acts as a mild immunosuppressant; thus, men, while they may be more likely to die of Covid-19, appear less susceptible to long-term effects.
What’s clear is this: As a society, we must prepare ourselves now to cope with Covid-19 and its after-effects long beyond the point that we have reached herd immunity against it, defined as 60 to 70 percent of the population with immunity. There will be an ongoing psycho-social toll, as well as an economic one. Many people may struggle for years to regain a sense of normalcy and return to work. There will be untold medical costs.
We must prepare ourselves now to support not only our family members and friends, but also strangers. We must accept that we are all in this together.
Precisely a year has passed since Wuhan, China, locked down to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Some 2.1 million people around the globe have died of it, including more than 400,000 in the U.S.
We must remain vigilant and committed to fighting this terrible illness by maintaining social distance, wearing masks, working from home when possible, limiting gatherings and getting vaccinated as soon as we are allowed and able.