A few months ago, Ok Go lead singer Damian Kulash and I were talking about his band’s then newly-released music — specifically, a new song the group had recorded while all social distancing from each other and which was an artistic product that could only have been produced during the coronavirus era. Eventually, though, Damian and I started talking about something else unrelated. The thing we’re all living with right now in different ways and that’s reshaped all our lives, because the singer himself had ended up contracting COVID-19 early on in the pandemic.
I asked how he was doing, and the answer he gave me was probably my first exposure to what’s now regarded as “long COVID.” This is the weird reality whereby a number of people who contract COVID-19 still report some symptoms even “long” after their bodies are no longer technically infected by the virus. In Damian’s case, it meant fatigue, a little shortness of breath and, as he described it, still feeling ragged now and then — the way you do after a night of not having gotten enough sleep.
This is something White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci addressed in a new live video interview with The Washington Post’s national political reporter Robert Costa. Because, it turns out, people who recover from COVID-19 a lot faster than they do from the symptoms themselves (that might end up lingering for months) are increasingly concerning to health professionals like Dr. Fauci.
This is what Dr. Fauci meant when he warned Costa: “There’s (also) something else that’s going on with COVID-19.”
One of the strange things about the coronavirus that’s baffling experts like Dr. Fauci is that, according to him, something on the order of 20% to 30% of people who have had a symptomatic form of the virus (even without it necessarily progressing to a serious stage) “have what’s called a post-COVID syndrome.” A large study is underway right now, he continued, to try and determine what percentage of people this entails. But in terms of what this means:
“Namely, (these are people who) no longer have virus in them, they can’t infect anybody, but it takes them anywhere from weeks to months – and maybe even beyond – to feel perfectly normal. They have a constellation of symptoms and signs that seem to be consistent when you talk to different people.” The symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath (“even among people who are athletes”) trouble sleeping, and “brain fog” whereby it’s difficult to focus or concentrate.
“So, there are these effects that we’re concerned about,” Dr. Fauci said. You know, just in case you needed another reminder — this should hopefully provide people with yet another motivation for following health guidelines and not participating in big gatherings over the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.