So far, the U.S. has reported 82,414,028 cases of Covid-19. One million have died, but the rest recovered.
The American Medical Association says that It is estimated that anywhere from 10% to 30% of patients might experience long COVID after recovering — even if they weren’t very sick in the first place. That means between 8 million and 24 million Americans suffering from long Covid.
Long COVID can be broken down into three categories.
COVID-19 itself has direct cell damage because of the virus and this can cause lingering symptoms. This means that people with COVID-19 do not recover completely and have ongoing symptoms because of direct cell damage from the virus. Since Covid infects every system in the body, these lingering symptoms can be variable. A very long list of problems that can affect multiple organ systems at once, including the brain.
Post-ICU care syndrome, including muscle weakness, cognitive brain dysfunction and post-traumatic stress. This isn’t specific to Covid since it occurs with many long-residence ICU patients.
Symptoms appear after recovery. These appear to be due to interaction between the immune system and the inflammatory system.
Patients who were vaccinated, in those rare instances where they got a breakthrough infection those patients are 50% less likely to develop long COVID or post COVID syndrome.
The Wall Street Journal has a detailed article about long Covid. Researchers found that fatigue, post-exertional malaise and cognitive dysfunction were the most frequent symptoms reported by long Covid patients, with more than 80% reporting fatigue and a similar percentage citing post-exertional malaise.
With post-exertional malaise, fatigue can worsen after even minor physical activity as well as after emotional or cognitive exertion, such as putting together a presentation for work or socializing. The deterioration can happen immediately after the activity or a day or two later, and can last days or weeks.
The article describes how super-fit people, like marathoners, can barely take a shower. If they try to work, they have to take breaks every few minutes. Trying to exercise to get stronger makes this worse.
It’s clear that people with severe long Covid can’t take a job with any kind of physical exertion. They would have a problem even with an office job because they have to “pace” themselves to avoid exhaustion, which would decrease productivity.
It’s not clear yet how long the problems from long Covid last. This could be highly variable from patient to patient. Doctors are trying various treatments, such as a drug to improve blood circulation.
Given the huge numbers who may have long Covid, the Macroeconomic impact could be serious. This may be one reason why the Labor Participation Rate has not yet improved to the pre-Covid level even though jobs are plentiful and pay is rising.
Labor Force Participation Rate = 62.2%
Labor Force Participation Rate - 25-54 Yrs. = 82.4%
The impact on the Macroeconomy is inflationary. The impact on individuals is disastrous since they may not be able to work but don’t qualify for disability.