The Murky and Lasting Impact of COVID Symptoms

Picture of Sefton Eisenhart
Sefton Eisenhart

The general consensus when it comes to COVID-19: things are going to get worse before they get better. America is at a dangerous crossroads. The country has reached over 4 million verified cases, while we are seeing 1,000 deaths in a single day.

The situation is dire. With so much happening in real time, from spikes to premature re-openings, one element of the pandemic that has not received much attention is the fact no one really knows how long the symptoms last. We still don’t understand what it means to be “better.”

If someone tests positive for COVID they have to take some pretty severe precautions, but the question of how long they have to take them has not been answered.

There is anecdotal evidence of long-term symptoms, and the length of their existence varies from patient to patient. When suffering from a typical flu, healthy people can usually determine for themselves when to re-enter the world so long as they were never terribly sick. That isn’t so with COVID. While contagiousness can (supposedly) last up to 20 days, there are still people who have symptoms longer.

Some people think they have been infected twice, others posit that they were never really better in the first place—the virus was lurking in their system and reemerged. Some people think they have been infected for months at a time. These “long-haulers,” as they are often referred, face disbelief from doctors when they describe the fact they have had COVID symptoms for so long. This diagnosis doesn’t match the accepted courses of action that have been established, and since the timelines don’t match up, patients feel disregarded.

For all the constant talk regarding COVID-19, it is easy to forget just how little we actually know about the virus. Long-term studies are non-existent, doctors are learning alongside patients, and much of the data are anecdotal. TREND Community hopes to publish a Community Voice Report in the near future distilling the discussions of communities into something understandable that will contribute to the unprecedented amount of clarification required for the world to put this virus in the rear-view mirror.