COVID-19 Long Haulers and the Rise in Pre-Existing Conditions

The damage caused by COVID-19 is often quantified by the number of infections, hospitalizations and deaths. While those numbers are jarring, they don’t give a full picture of the fallout caused by this virus.


A study from JAMA Cardiology shows 78 out of 100 patients that recovered from COVID-19 had some form of heart abnormality. 60 out of the 100 had inflammation of the heart muscle, with none of the patients having these conditions prior to COVID-19. In addition to cardiovascular issues, the coronavirus makes you more likely to form clots, making you more likely to have a stroke. A study shows that even young people, often unafraid of the virus, are 7 times more likely to have a stroke from COVID-19 versus the regular seasonal flu.


The increased risk of blood clots is leading to an increase in amputations. One study shows that patients with leg ischemia, an obstruction of the arteries, were more likely to die if they had COVID-19. The stories speak for themselves. Most well-known was Broadway actor Nick Cordero who had his leg amputated and later died due to complications from COVID-19. This isn’t an isolated occurrence. A man in San Antonio had his fingers and toes amputated, another woman who contracted COVID-19, recovered and then ended up in the hospital with sepsis, resulting in a quadruple amputation.


The United States is not equipped to deal with the fallout of hundreds of thousands of people living with either pre-existing conditions or newfound disabilities. While the United States passed the Americans With Disabilities’ Act in 1990 to make daily life more accessible, there has been difficulty ensuring compliance with the act. The financial burden is going to be huge for both those with disabilities and looming health conditions. Prior to the pandemic, cardiovascular disease cost the US government more than $500 billion annually and that number is expected to skyrocket as millions of Americans live with the aftermath of COVID-19.


Other survivors of COVID-19 have continued to experience lingering symptoms. These people have become known as COVID-19 long haulers. Long haulers experience a range of symptoms such as fatigue, chills, body aches and brain fog. A study out of the UK estimates that 10% of people who have had COVID-19 experienced prolonged symptoms. Months after their initial diagnosis, some people aren’t getting better. Brain fog, one of the most mysterious symptoms long haulers experience, has left survivors disoriented and forgetful to a point where it impedes their ability to function.


The United States has had nearly 8 million cases of COVID-19 and there are likely hundreds of thousands of recovered COVID-19 patients suffering from prolonged symptoms and underlying conditions that we don’t know of yet.


It is during this time that the current administration is trying repeal the Affordable Care Act and strip coverage from millions (and counting) of Americans with pre-existing conditions. This cannot happen. Not only is it morally bankrupt, but it will be horribly damaging to the economy and severely impact working class American’s prospects.


The coronavirus is still relatively new–8 months into this pandemic and we’re still learning new information everyday about the virus and its long-term effects. As the science evolves, it is crucial to remember that the deaths are only a fraction of the consequence caused by contracting COVID-19 and that still 215,000 lives lost is 215,000 too many.

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