Yes, Long COVID Should Worry Us

One reason I wrote this cryptic post a few weeks ago is that there are, in some quarters (and not just the Great Barrington Declaration assholes), calls to ‘live with COVID’, as opposed to suppressing it (I don’t expect eradication, but we can get to around one new case per day per 100,000). Well, a recent JAMAOpenNetwork paper examined how people who have had COVID performed on various tests used to identify dementia and similar disorders. Here’s what they found (Table 2 in original):


That’s not good. It’s hard to know what the baseline expectation should be: they used a cutoff of the bottom seven percent of scores to determine cognitive impairment. None of the patients, however, had being diagnosed as having dementia pre-COVID, so presumably the pre-COVID number of cognitively impaired people as measured by a given test would have been less than seven percent, but probably not zero either. Even if we use seven percent as a baseline, among outpatients, a significant percentage of patients had symptoms over seven months later (unfortunately, like many of these studies, there’s no description of how many patients lacked any symptoms–some probably had multiple symptoms).

But even if we assume that four or five percent of people who have had COVID and didn’t need to go to the hospital still have cognitive impairment over half a year later, that’s a lot of American Carnage. We possibly could be looking at a couple of million disabled adults, maybe more.

The Biden Administration, along with state and local governments really need to do more, because, if we don’t, we will be paying for it in the long run through increased disability payments and similar social supports.

This is definitely not the flu.

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5 Responses to Yes, Long COVID Should Worry Us

  1. John Seed says:

    I wish the long-term morbidity of COVID was so limited. It’s not just neurology. Recent literature from nephrologists, endocrinologists, gastroenterologists and mammogramologists (is that a field of specialization?), provides evidence for wide-spread tissue damage in COVID patients, not limited to those who were hospitalized, but clearly impacted by such. The literature is scarily fragmented. How many of these patients reporting signs of brain injury are newly diabetic or hypertensive or in need of dialysis…? In this context, endemic COVID-19 is a scary concept. Our next public health crisis is upon us, but we don’t have a system to address it. Thought we did, but it turned out to be a hollow artifact.

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