COVID is a generator of new unknowns.
The New York Times reported on the experience of some Italian citizens who have been infected by COVID and are no longer infected. However these folks are not seeing their health restored to their pre-COVID states:
Studies also point to kidney, heart, liver and neurological damage, often from secondary infections, and no one knows what the long-term prospects are for those patients.
But even some of the infected who have avoided pneumonia describe a maddeningly persistent and unpredictable illness, with unexpected symptoms. Bones feel broken. The senses dull. Stomachs are constantly upset…..
On the weekend of March 7, Mr. Cirielli ran a fever and suffered cold-like symptoms, and became convinced he had picked up the virus by touching an infected surface in the Parliament chamber. He tested positive that week….After 40 days of feeling lousy, he tested negative for the virus, but his eyes still burned and bouts of diarrhea continued, he said….
“It never finishes,” said Martina Sorlini, a 29-year-old math and physics high school teacher who has been running a low-grade fever since the beginning of March. She said that the cough and sore throat eventually went away, and that after three weeks she got her sense of taste and smell back, and even found enough energy to run and tend vegetables in her garden.
Then came stomach aches, fatigue and the return of fever. And it hasn’t left, making it extremely tiring to teach her online high school classes….
We don’t know what “typical” post-COVID looks like. We just don’t have the data as the first people who we know were infected with COVID and survived now have four months worth of follow-up.
We know enough to know that there are likely long term secondary effects from a COVID infection even after the virus has been rendered ineffective by the patient’s immune response. But we can not readily project in a year how many additional dialysis sessions are needed per 10,000 COVID infections stratified by age and controlled for pre-COVID observables. We can’t project how many physical therapy/rehab sessions will be needed.
One of my curiousities this summer will be tracking how insurers are trying to price COVID into their 2021 rates. Right now we know so little that almost any assumption is facially plausible. I expect that there will be huge variance among insurers in May and June and a decrease in variance by the time rates are finalized near Labor Day as the few extra months of knowledge generation will help us figure out what COVID actually does to people over the long term.
Right now, we just don’t know, but the early knowledge is that we can expect a lot of weird things to happen.