About 80 percent of [COVID-19] infections, according to the World Health Organization, “are mild or asymptomatic,” and patients recover after two weeks, on average. Yet support groups on Slack and Facebook host thousands of people like [journalist Vonny] LeClerc, who say they have been wrestling with serious COVID-19 symptoms for at least a month, if not two or three. Some call themselves “long-termers” or “long-haulers.”
I interviewed nine of them for this story, all of whom share commonalities. Most have never been admitted to an ICU or gone on a ventilator, so their cases technically count as “mild.” But their lives have nonetheless been flattened by relentless and rolling waves of symptoms that make it hard to concentrate, exercise, or perform simple physical tasks. Most are young. Most were previously fit and healthy. “It is mild relative to dying in a hospital, but this virus has ruined my life,” LeClerc said. “Even reading a book is challenging and exhausting. What small joys other people are experiencing in lockdown—yoga, bread baking—are beyond the realms of possibility for me.”
Some survivors will have scar tissue from the coronavirus’s assault on their lungs. Some will still be weak after lengthy stays in ICUs or on ventilators. Some will eventually be diagnosed with [chronic fatigue syndrome]. Whatever the case, as the pandemic progresses, the number of people with medium-to-long-term disabilities will increase.