In many ways, the past two and a half years of living under the COVID-19 pandemic have felt like an eternity. From all the ways we’ve changed our daily lives to the risks we now face every time we venture outside our doors, it can still feel like the virus is a presence we can’t seem to shake. But now, as many of the last health precautions are lifted and public life begins to return to normal, there is evidence that new threats from COVID are emerging, including a side effect that a new study says is “on the rise” among those who contract the disease. Read on to see what some experts are worried about in the coming months to deal with the virus.
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The number of cases of COVID-19 has waxed and waned over time as the virus has changed to evade the defense provided by highly effective vaccines and natural antibodies. The Omicron variant has been particularly difficult to treat, as research shows new subvariants BA.4 or BA.5. are four times more resistant to vaccine antibodies than the previously dominant BA.2, although the shots still significantly help prevent serious illness and death, according to a study published in July in the journal. science.
For now, however, COVID infections in the US are on a downward trend. The national daily average of new cases fell 27 percent over the past two weeks to 59,602 as of Sept. 19, according to data from The New York Times. This represents a severe drop from the mid-summer high of 130,729 seen on July 12.
During an interview with CBS News’ 60 minutes on September 18, President Joe Biden made a significant statement about the current state of the fight against the virus. “The pandemic is over. We still have a problem with COVID. We’re still working hard on it. But the pandemic is over,” he said. “If you notice, nobody’s wearing masks. Everybody seems to be in really good shape, and so I think it’s changing, and I think [the Detroit auto show resuming after three years] is a perfect example of that.”
Many critics have rejected the president’s assessment that the virus is currently under control. And now, new research shows that the microscopic enemy could present a new challenge.
A new study by City University of New York (CUNY) researchers published on September 6, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, surveyed 3,042 adults in the US between June 30 and July 2 of 2022 on COVID-19. 19 tests, results, their symptoms and their experiences with persistent symptoms after contracting the virus. The data collected found that up to 21 percent of respondents reported suffering from prolonged COVID as early as four weeks after their initial infection, according to The Daily Beast.
That number represents a 19 percent increase in patients who reported the persistent side effect of COVID in June, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And researchers say the change points to the condition as a growing problem.
“Despite the increased level of protection against long-term COVID from vaccination, the total number of people with long-term COVID in the US may be increasing,” Dennis NashPhD, an epidemiologist and lead author of the CUNY study, told The Daily Beast, clarifying that more people report suffering from the lingering side effects every day they are recovering from them.
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The novel coronavirus has proven to be a formidable foe in many ways, including how difficult it has been to fully understand the pathogen and its effects. Now, years after studying it, our knowledge of long-term COVID is just beginning to come into focus. According to the CDC, the disease causes “a wide range of symptoms that can last more than four weeks or even months after infection,” adding that “sometimes symptoms may even disappear or return.” These range from fatigue, fever and general malaise to severe respiratory and heart problems, neurological symptoms such as ‘brain fog’, digestive problems and other ailments.
Some who develop long-lasting symptoms say it dramatically affects their lives. “I’m desperate to get back to work, but I still can’t work at a desk or talk for more than 20-30 minutes without having to rest for hours at a time.” Charlie McCone, a 32-year-old San Francisco resident who was first infected with COVID in March 2020, told Yahoo Finance. “I feel like people read things like that from long-term COVID patients and think it’s an exaggeration, but I wish it were.”
New research shows this is far from an isolated incident. A new report from the Brookings Institution said up to 4 million people with long-term COVID are out of work because of the illness.
“I really miss the simple things: going to the park, being able to breathe normally, chatting with friends, listening to music, drinking coffee,” McCone told Yahoo Finance. “Give it back to me and I’d honestly be fine living my life half of what I used to.”
Fortunately, the past few weeks have seen some positive developments in the fight against COVID, especially when it comes to serious outcomes. For example, U.S. ICU cases of COVID patients have dropped to 3,704 from their January 2021 peak of nearly 30,000, according to The Washington Post. And the seven-day national average of daily deaths from the disease has dropped to 403 after topping 3,300 in January 2021.
Of course, more work is needed to further reduce the drastic results. But according to the CUNY study researchers, the approach of the medical community must also change to include the growing problem at hand. “I think it’s past time to focus on long-term COVID, as well as preventing hospitalizations and deaths,” Nash told The Daily Beast. “Focusing exclusively on these results could worsen the long-term COVID situation, as there is a substantial amount of long-term COVID among people who have had only mild or less severe SARS-CoV-2 infections.”