I'd be willing to bet we all know someone who has ignored Covid safety measures from the get-go because they believed contracting the virus wouldn't be that bad, that they'd avoid hospitalization or death.
That view has always been self-centered and ignorant of the potentially devastating impact catching and spreading Covid might have on others who contract the disease. But we’re starting to get more evidence that people's overconfidence in their ability to cope with Covid will have a lasting impact on Americans’ health.
A new study from the nonprofit organization FAIR Health found that over 75 percent of long Covid sufferers — that is, people who experience long-term symptoms of the disease even after they’ve tested negative — weren’t hospitalized when they were initially diagnosed with the disease. The percentage of women (about 82 percent) diagnosed with long Covid despite not being hospitalized was higher than the percentage of men (roughly 68 percent). But that still means many people who experienced cases that didn’t rise to the level of hospitalization are facing symptoms like fatigue, difficulty breathing, loss of taste or smell, memory loss, chest pains, a rapid heartbeat and more — and those symptoms could last for weeks, months, even years.
Media and public officials have routinely used hospitalizations as the primary indicator of Covid’s severity. But there are many health experts who’ve sounded the alarm on long Covid for months, warning that hospitalization status doesn’t tell the full story of Covid’s life-altering power.
We’ve also seen some lawmakers highlighting the crisis of long Covid. As I wrote last year, Democratic Reps. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Don Beyer of Virginia jointly sent a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urging the agency to investigate long Covid, and particularly, its disparate impact on women and nonwhite people.
The more we learn about long Covid, the clearer it becomes that disregarding the potential impact of a virus that has already claimed more than 1 million American lives is medical, political and social malpractice. Rest assured: The politicians and other hucksters inviting you to go maskless, vax-less and ignore Covid’s force will not be there to console you should you catch the virus and spend sleepless nights gasping for air for years to come.