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You May Be Early, but You're Not Wrong: A Covid Reading List
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Yesterday, I came across a somber tweet by a man who’s trying to protect his family from Covid. He said, “my wife has been speaking with the principal of my children’s elementary school and that he has been advising her to file for divorce because I was clearly not well and ‘my life revolves around fear.’”
Yes, a principal is telling someone’s wife to divorce him because he wants to protect them from a deadly, disabling virus.
Companies are also starting to pressure their employees to get therapy “to conquer their fear of Covid.”
There’s a line from the film The Big Short that echoes through my head these days. The investor Michael Burry says, “I may have been early, but I’m not wrong.” There’s a lot of us who feel like that right now. A majority of the world thinks we’re crazy. In reality, we’re not crazy at all.
We have the facts.
Over the last few months, there’s been an avalanche of studies telling us that Covid poses a major threat to our health, our lives, and our sanity. The biggest risk now comes in the weeks and months after we recover. Our politicians and media have done a poor job communicating this threat. Instead, they’re doing their best to manipulate information to protect their own political interests. The public has bought into these lies. They want to believe they can return to normal.
The latest studies tell us that’s not possible.
There’s no permanent immunity from this virus. Each time we catch it, this virus attacks our hearts and minds. It weakens us. It tries to kill us. It imprints on us, so a future variant has a better shot next time.
That next time could be a few months later.
Here are the key points:
You can catch Covid multiple times.
Reinfections are common, not rare.
Breakthrough infections are common.
Covid can kill you months after you recover.
It can cause brain damage.
It can cause blood clots and heart attacks.
It doesn’t spare children.
Vaccines help, but only some.
Everyone should know about these studies. I’ve linked to the original articles. I’ve tried to summarize them in clear language. I’ve also linked to summaries written by journalists who still care about the truth.
Here they are:
“Long-term neurologic outcomes of COVID-19,” Nature Medicine, 2022.
Researchers at Washington University built a giant data set of veterans to look at the long-term impact of Covid on people’s nervous systems. They found that anyone who gets Covid can develop problems with memory, concentration, depression, migraines, and even strokes. They’re not temporary. Some people slowly get better. A lot of them don’t.
Catching the virus elevates your risk of memory problems by 77 percent. It elevates your risk of stroke by 55 percent. It elevates your risk of seizures by 80 percent. That’s because Covid attacks the lining of your blood vessels, and it attacks your brain cells. Worse, the researchers can’t predict risk factors.
That means it can happen to anyone, even if you had a mild case. As the head researcher has explained, “We’re seeing brain problems in previously healthy individuals and those who have had mild infections…It doesn’t matter if you are young or old, female or male, or what your race is. It doesn’t matter if you smoked or not, or if you had other unhealthy habits or conditions.”
Key takeaway: Anyone can get Long Covid.
You don’t want it.
“Long COVID after breakthrough SARS-CoV-2 infection,” Nature Medicine, 2022
The same researchers from Washington University tried to find out exactly how much vaccines help prevent Long Covid. In general, vaccines reduce your risk by about 15 percent. So, not much. On the bright side, vaccines lower your risk of lung problems by 49 percent, and they lower your risk of blood clots by 56 percent. By vaccinated, they mean two doses of vaccine.
The study doesn’t talk about boosters, but it stands to reason that getting a third or fourth shot can provide more protection. If nothing else, it should help protect you from waning immunity.
It doesn’t mean we should abandon masks.
The head of the research team says Covid isn’t going anywhere, and our current approach is going to have a big impact on our way of life. As he says, “This will not only affect people’s health, but their ability to work, life expectancy, economic productivity and societal well-being. We need to have a candid national conversation about the consequences of our current approach.”
Key takeaway: Vaccines help, but not as much as everyone thinks.
It’s better not to keep getting Covid.
“SARS-CoV-2 promotes microglial synapse elimination in human
brain organoids,” Molecular Psychiatry, 2022.
Medical researchers from Sweden and Boston teamed up to find out what Covid does to your synapses, the internet connection between your brain cells that allows them to exchange information. They grew tiny brains called organoids. They saw a major reduction in synapses after a Covid infection.
Fortunately, Fortune ran a good summary of this story, explaining how normal brains “get rid of a certain amount of inactive synapses…but the infected mini brains showed unnecessarily and inordinate levels of the clean-up process, similar to the level seen in neurological disorders like schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease.” In other words, your brain starts killing off those internet connections that help your brain cells communicate. That’s why a third of people who get Covid wind up having problems thinking and concentrating later.
Key takeaway: Covid eats your brain.
Don’t catch it.
“Excess risk for acute myocardial infarction mortality during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Journal of Medical Virology, 2022.
Researchers at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and Jiaotong University looked at the effect Covid has on heart attacks. They found a huge 34 percent increase in young people (25-44 years old), caused by Covid. These were previously healthy people with no preexisting conditions. Even if some of them had an undocumented condition, this is a big, serious spike. It includes “mild” Omicron infections. The authors admit it’s like nothing anyone has seen before.
Key takeaway: Covid can kill healthy young people.
It’s giving them heart attacks.
“Immunological dysfunction persists for 8 months following initial mild-to-moderate SARS-CoV-2 infection,” Nature Immunology, 2022.
Researchers at the University of New South Wales teamed up with the St. Vincent’s Hospital in Australia to look at how Covid impacts our immune systems. They compared blood samples from healthy patients to ones with Long Covid. The Long Covid patients all had deficits in T and B Cells. In fact, they were missing T cells completely. Basically, Covid can deplete your immune system’s long-term memory. A Nobel-prize winning immunologist named Peter Doherty discusses this study, saying it explains a lot—and that it’s troublesome.
Key takeaway: Covid attacks your immune system.
You don’t develop immunity.
You lose it.
“ACE2-independent infection of T lymphocytes by SARS-CoV-2,” Signal Transduction and Targeted Therapy, 2022.
Chinese researchers from several labs and academies teamed up to look at the same question about Covid’s impact on our immune systems. They found the same troubling outcome: The virus can exhaust your T Cells, either killing them or making them go haywire. As they say, “T lymphocytes from COVID-19 patients underwent pronounced apoptosis compared to those from the healthy donors, showing a more than tenfold increase of apoptotic cells.” In case you’re wondering, apoptosis means cell death. Those T Cells also helped carry the virus to other parts of the body, acting like a subway for Covid.
Key takeaway: Covid kills T Cells.
It makes you more vulnerable to other diseases.
You don’t want that.
“Distinguishing features of Long COVID identified through immune profiling,” Preprint/Yale, 2022.
Researchers at Yale took up the same question as the previous two studies, since it’s a pretty controversial idea. They found the same thing. Covid can damage your T Cells and trigger autoimmune disorders. Writing for The Tyee, Andrew Nikiforuk sums it up this way: “exhausted T cells that suggested the patients were fighting an active chronic infection.” Although this study is a preprint, I think we can trust a team of researchers from Yale, especially since they’re confirming what other researchers have already started to find out. By the way, I would read that Nikiforuk piece. It provides a really good breakdown of Covid myths.
Key takeaway: Every Covid infection runs a risk of weakening your immune system. It can even reactivate old viral infections.
Avoid it at all costs.
“Immune boosting by B.1.1.529 (Omicron) depends on previous SARS-CoV-2 exposure,” Science, 2022.
Researchers at Imperial College in London studied triple-vaccinated healthcare workers in Britain to see how often they got infected by Covid. They “found some unexpected immune-damping effects...” Basically, their findings shoot down the popular myth spread by mainstream media that getting Omicron would provide some kind of long-lasting immunity. It doesn’t. As they say, “Omicron infections and reinfections likely reflects considerable subversion of immune recognition at both the B and T cell, antibody binding, and nAb level, although with considerable differential modulation through immune imprinting.” In short, catching Covid just makes you more likely to catch a later variant.
There’s a good discussion of this study in The Guardian. The researchers explain what’s happening. Covid doesn’t just evade your immune system. “It’s actually worse than that, because the adaptations that the spike [protein] has now are actually inducing a kind of regulation or shutdown of immune response.” Like other studies are showing, we’re not building herd immunity.
Key Takeaway: One Covid infection sets up another.
We’re not building immunity.
“COVID-19 and Acute Neurologic Complications in Children,” Pediatrics, 2022.
Researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Vanderbilt looked at the impact of Covid on children, from infants to teenagers. They found that 7-8 percent of hospitalized kids went on to develop severe neurological problems, including seizures. In short, these kids all wound up with major brain damage. As the authors explain in a good Forbes piece, this isn’t temporary. It’s going to stay with them for years, and it’s probably going to haunt them for the rest of their lives.
Key takeaway: Children aren’t safe from Covid.
They need protection.
“Post–COVID-19 Conditions Among Children 90 Days After SARS-CoV-2 Infection,” Pediatrics, 2022.
Researchers at children’s hospitals from across the U.S. and Canada teamed up to look at Long Covid in hospitalized children. They found that up to 9.8 percent of them went on to experience chronic symptoms like severe fatigue and weakness, similar to what adults go through. There’s a good summary here.
Studies like these further disprove the popular myth that children are somehow safe from Covid. They’re not. In fact, the researchers describe the risk as “consistent with studies in adults.”
Key takeaway: See above.
“Long-COVID in children and adolescents: a systematic review and meta-analyses,” Nature Scientific Reports, 2022.
Researchers from several prominent universities teamed up to review 21 studies on Long Covid in children. They found that 25 percent of children experience chronic symptoms that include mood and sleep disorders, along with fatigue. Once again, kids aren’t immune to Covid. They get just as sick as adults. It didn’t look or feel that way because we were protecting them.
Key takeaway: See above.
“Post-COVID-19-associated morbidity in children, adolescents, and adults: A matched cohort study including more than 157,000 individuals with COVID-19 in Germany” PLOS Medicine, 2022.
Researchers in Germany compared the rates of Long Covid in children and adults. They found something troubling. About a third of children who get Covid go on to develop long-term symptoms like the ones we see in adults. Children don’t die as often, but they experience some of the same chronic symptoms—especially fatigue and sleep disorders. The only silver lining here is that kids tend to recover better after their infection. Of course, we don’t know what repeat infections will do to their immune systems over the years.
There’s a good summary at the University of Minnesota.
Key takeaway: Covid isn’t like a cold.
Children shouldn’t catch it.
“Lifting Universal Masking in Schools — Covid-19 Incidence among Students and Staff,” The New England Journal of Medicine, 2022.
Researchers from around the northeast looked at what happened in Massachusetts schools when they lifted mask mandates. That resulted in 29.4 percent more cases in the 15 weeks after the decision. The authors conclude that masks work. Masks reduce transmission, especially in older schools with bigger class sizes and poor ventilation. They might work even better if people wore N95 masks, and wore them the way you’re supposed to, not under their noses.
Key takeaway: Masks work.
“Acute and postacute sequelae associated with SARS-CoV-2 reinfection,” Nature Medicine, 2022.
Once again, Ziyad Al-Aly at Washington University worked with Veteran Affairs to look at what happens when you get infected with Covid over and over. They found “cumulative risks and burdens of repeat infection increased according to the number of infections.” As the other studies in this list show, catching Covid doesn’t boost your immunity. It just increases your risk of death, hospitalization, brain damage, mental illness, strokes, and heart attacks.
Reuters gives a good summary of the study, saying “Reinfected patients had a more than doubled risk of death and a more than tripled risk of hospitalization compared with those who were infected with COVID just once.” They’re also three times more likely to develop lung problems, and 60 percent more likely to develop neurological disorders—basically brain damage.
Key takeaway: If you got Covid once, you’re not in the clear.
It’s not over.
Biggest takeaway: the media lied to us.
The evidence is overwhelming now.
Last winter, the media made a concerted effort to convince Americans that Covid had become mild. They said catching Omicron would protect us from future variants, and that we could ditch our masks. Newspapers were filled with op-eds basically telling us to go out and shop, celebrate, and get infected. They blanketed the internet with stories about the “relief” people felt catching Covid.
Anyone who disagreed got labeled a doomsayer.
The optimists were all wrong.
There was no evidence to support any of these myths, just arrogant assertions from the same handful of pundits. The actual studies tell the truth. You don’t want to catch Covid once. You certainly don’t want to catch it multiple times. We should be getting boosted. We should be wearing masks.
We should be protecting our children.
There’s only one alternative, and that’s catching Covid over and over until it destroys our immune systems, along with our hearts and minds.
Nobody wants that.
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