A Disturbing Preprint About Long COVID

There’s a recent preprint that describes the frequency of long COVID in a sample of 1,036 U.S. adults during the Omicron surge. The sample size isn’t great, though that’s more a reflection of our dysfunctional healthcare system* than it is of the authors’ efforts. The authors use a widely used question to determine if someone has long COVID:

“Would you describe yourself as having ‘long COVID’, that is you experienced symptoms such as fatigue, difficulty concentrating, shortness of breath more than 4 weeks after you first had COVID-19 that are not explained by something else?”

What’s disturbing is Table 3, and let’s focus on the three first columns (I’ve split the table and left out some parts–read the paper if you want to see the whole thing):

Screen Shot 2022-09-11 at 6.24.19 PM
Screen Shot 2022-09-11 at 6.24.54 PM

Even if we assume that most of the observed effect is either misreporting, ascertainment bias or background noise–and regarding the latter, do we really think fifteen percent of 25-34 year old adults suffer from long COVID like symptoms for some other reason?–it still would mean one to two percent of people suffer from fatigue, difficulty concentrating, or shortness of breath. Booster shots seem to help, but nineteen percent of those boosted still is high, even if we think much of that might be due to other causes.

Given the recency of these cases, we don’t have any information on how long these symptoms lasted (or will last). And boosters do help, but not dramatically so. We need to stop viewing this as a trivial infection, since it’s clearly not.

I really don’t think our political betters, including the Substack Bois et alia, realize what they’re risking here.

*Regardless of the caterwauling about HOW WILL YOU PAY FOR IT BERNIE?!?, our fragmented healthcare system means that it’s incredibly difficult to track what is actually happening. Amidst all of the calls for CDC reform, if the CDC could spend less time setting up sentinel surveillance and just get healthcare data directly, maybe it could devote more resources to response.

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17 Responses to A Disturbing Preprint About Long COVID

  1. Yeah. Everyone wants the easy answer. “You have your jab! Now get back to work. Everything is fine. Nothing to see here.”

    Only problem is that Brookings reported that up to 4 million Americans are out of work or on reduced hours due to long COVID. The only bright side in that story is that this aspect is hitting greedy CEOs right where it hurts. Maybe if it hurts them enough they might consider doing the hard (and expensive) work of actually making workplaces safer, allowing more WFH and generally acting like responsible adults. Not holding my breath on that last one.

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