The way in which the healthcare system labels “recovered” Covid-19 patients doesn’t mean they are actually healthy. This administrative handling of case resolution is, unfortunately, painting an inaccurate picture of the risks associated with infection—especially with the younger demographics. In this article, we analyze the definitions and explore what it really means for you—exposing the untold truth about Covid-19 outcomes and the emerging chronic-nature of this disease.
It is inevitable that if we are going to track infections, then we must also track outcomes. However, identifying cases is relatively easy—either a positive test result or clear symptoms. The problem arises in how we close those cases out (i.e., resolve them). This side of the equation is not so cut and dry—it is highly subjective and can easily distort the risk picture.
When it comes to the outcome side of the equation, there are only two options: death or recovery. Obviously, a death (or fatality) is fairly objective and relatively straightforward to define. But what about everyone else? How do you decide when someone has “recovered” from the coronavirus? It turns out that this isn’t so easy to do.
Let’s take a look at how we are currently defining “recovered” and why this may be giving people—especially younger folks—a false sense of security regarding the risks inherent in becoming infected by SARS-CoV-2. The devil is always in the details… so, let’s expose those details and see what they mean for us.
Covid-19 Recovery: Defining a “Recovered” Outcome
First, it is critical to understand the dilemma faced when it comes to recovered cases.
Alison Steinbach reveals that a truly recovered outcome “is hard to determine — for a variety of reasons — so most counties and states do not yet report it,” adding, “It’s also hard to agree on exactly what ‘recovered’ means.”
She aptly reveals the dilemma when she writes, “If recovered just means symptom-free for a certain number of days, that doesn’t mean the person is healthy and back to normal. They could be, or they could be moving into a long-term care facility after lung damage from a ventilator, for example. Or they could even feel better for some days and then take a turn for the worse.”
Thus, from a technical point of view, all such patients have “recovered” from their positive test to Covid-19. However, that doesn’t mean they are healthy—that there aren’t persistent, lingering issues.
Second, the subjective nature of this dilemma leads to the question: How do you “technically” define recovered?
While many counties and states are refusing to report recovered cases, those that are typically follow the guidelines established by the CDC. So, what are those guidelines?
The CDC has proposed a symptoms-based strategy. This approach recognizes a patient as recovered when two criteria are met:
“At least 3 days (72 hours) have passed since recovery defined as resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and improvement in respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath); and, at least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared.”
What is critical to recognize regarding this strategy is that “recovered” has nothing to do with the patient and everything to do with the CDC’s determination of contagion—meaning the likelihood of transmitting the virus to others (i.e., Are they still contagious?).
It is all about containment—not patient care, health, or wellbeing.
In case there were any doubt, the CDC clarifies this when it asserts, “Available evidence at this time indicates that an interim strategy based on time-since-illness-onset and time-since-recovery can be implemented to establish the end of isolation… Epidemiologists rely on surrogate evidence, such as that presented here, to approximate when and for how long someone may be infectious to others… This strategy can apply to most recovered persons.”
Health experts at the CDC always refer to recovery by such labels as “discontinue isolation,” “when can you be around others,” or “discontinuation of transmission-based precautions.”
Again, and I cannot stress this enough, the CDC guidelines for recognizing the resolution of a case as recovered have nothing to do with the health of the patient—they are only focused on the risk the patient poses to others.
Furthermore, even more concerning is the fact that many counties and states that are recording and disseminating numbers for recovered cases have—similar to the CDC’s treatment of the flu—adopted algorithms to “calculate” how many people have “recovered.”
They aren’t even recording and reporting real numbers—just projected ones (aka guestimates) based on rearward-looking case trends and the time elapsed since those cases were recognized.
Finally, recognizing this very real dilemma, some agencies that are using the CDC model are reporting “released from isolation” instead of recovered cases.
In other words, they are merely reporting that those patients “have been recovered without fever or medication for at least three days, their respiratory symptoms have improved, and they’ve gone at least seven days since symptoms appeared.”
However, the problem is that these cases are still being perceived and reported by others as “recovered” patients—obfuscating the facts and painting a very distorted picture for the public.
Covid-19 Recovery: The Inconvenient Truth about Emerging Chronic Health Issues
So, we’ve seen the technical definition of “recovered.” Now, let’s turn our attention to the true story and see if reality paints the same picture.
The growing number of stories surfacing about chronic health issues from Covid-19 infections are beginning to become overwhelming—stories from young folks, with no previous health issues, and with mild cases.
However, for the sake of illustrating this overarching reality, let’s look at three examples…
Anecdotal Evidence of Chronic Health Issues from Covid-19
First, we have the story of an otherwise healthy 31-year-old woman, who “spent 8 days in the hospital… Although her symptoms improved enough for her to go home… she left the hospital with abnormal liver tests likely caused by a medicine she received, low iron levels, a persistent cough with lots of phlegm, and continued weakness. Though she had survived her ordeal, she coughed for weeks after and struggled to get back to her previous level of activity.”
Next, there is the story about another 32-year-old woman with no pre-Covid health issues, who “felt an intense burning sensation, like acid reflux, when she breathed. Embarrassed, she didn’t initially seek medical care. When her shortness of breath kept getting worse, her doctor tested her for Covid-19. Her results came back positive. But for Nichols, that was just the beginning. Over the next eight weeks, she developed wide and varied symptoms, including extreme and chronic fatigue, diarrhea, nausea, tremors, headaches, difficulty concentrating, and short-term memory loss.”
Finally, we have the story of yet another otherwise healthy woman, who reports that “more than seven weeks after she first got sick, she still experiences symptoms on and off, including burning in her lungs and a dry cough.”
And these represent just three examples from a growing mountain of personal experiences with the virus by otherwise healthy folks in their 20s and 30s.
Empirical Evidence of Long-Term Struggles for “Recovered” Coronavirus Patients
Dr. Neha Pathak asserts that “more than 1.5 million people are somewhere along the road to recovery among the estimated 4.3 million people worldwide who have had confirmed infections.”
This is the long and twisting road to REAL recovery from the fight with Covid-19… not the story being reflected in the “recovered” statistics.
Lois Parshley echoes this real story, warning that many otherwise healthy young people with mild Covid-19 symptoms “are finding their recovery takes far longer than the two weeks the World Health Organization says people with mild cases can expect.”
Jessie Edwards, PhD, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, reveals that a recent study she worked on with a team from Johns Hopkins University and Chinese researchers finds that “47% of people who had only a mild disease and 61% with a moderate disease had abnormal liver function tests, indicating injury to the liver, during their illness. Another small study found that 50% of people who didn’t have symptoms had abnormal findings on imaging tests showing damage in the lungs, even without lung symptoms.”
Then there is Dr. Reynold Panettieri, vice chancellor of clinical and translational science and a pulmonary critical care physician at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center at Rutgers University in New Jersey, who reports that many of the patients (with mild cases) that he has treated “had an illness for about two weeks, and three months later, they’re still not feeling ‘quite right’,” adding, “They were aggressive athletes or were exercising and…they still haven’t gotten back to that prowess that they were pre-illness.”
We can add to this growing mountain of evidence a Dutch survey of 1,600 “recovered” patients released in June found that “many recovered coronavirus patients who did not need to be hospitalized are still facing serious health problems months later.”
Specifically, Janene Pieters notes that the sizable survey found “94 percent say they do not feel as healthy as they did before the viral infection, [and] some 60 percent of this group said they still have breathing symptoms which make it difficult to take a walk, and nearly half are unable to exercise.”
These “recovered” patients reported that “they still suffer from symptoms like tightness in the chest, fatigue, headaches, or shortness of breath almost three months after recovering.” And, shockingly, “Only six percent said that their health is back to what it was before their infection.”
Finally, Luke Harding reports that “an online survey of 151 medical professionals who fell ill in March found [as of June] 68 are still unable to work. A further 26 went back, only to stop again when symptoms returned.” And these are highly-trained medical professionals—very capable of identifying and assessing medical issues they are experiencing months after their “recovery.”
He posits that “it appears coronavirus may be a chronic condition. How long it persists for is unknown. The symptoms can be serious and wide-ranging, affecting the lungs, heart, brain, kidneys, stomach and nervous system. Headaches, shortness of breath, sore throat and feeling exhausted are common. So is recovery followed by frequent relapses.”
Updated Information (6/26/20): A massive hydroxychloroquine (+azithromycin or HCQ-AZ) study out of France, led by the renown Jean-Christophe Lagier and just published yesterday (6/25/20), looked at 3,737 covid-19 patients (a large sample size).
While the study confirmed that HCQ-AZ IS a highly effective treatment approach when administered early (with almost no negative health risks)—confirming our suspicions on the inexpensive drug, what we found shocking was the study’s findings regarding potential chronic complications for post-recovery patients.
Using low-dose computed tomography (CT) scans, the research team noted that they found “lung lesions in 592 of the 991 (59.7%) patients with minimal clinical symptoms (NEWS score=0).”
That’s a massively important finding that (1) isn’t being communicated to the public and (2) lends strong, statistically-significant support to earlier studies that warned patients—even those with very mild cases—face a material risk of chronic (even permanent) health consequences.
Again, these were patients with very mild cases of Covid-19 (i.e., manifesting minimal clinical symptoms)… and nearly 60% has lesions present in their lungs—fibrotic damage (scarring) that may be irreversible and negatively impact lung function. This highlights that “recovered” does not equal healthy!
[Note: End of updated info]
Now, arguably, these stories are anecdotal, and the data/studies are largely preliminary and/or exploratory in nature. We are early in this pandemic and conclusions regarding long-term consequences and outcomes take time to solidify. However, the breadth, depth, and scope of this mounting evidence is overwhelming.
Furthermore, it is the true story that is not reflected in the picture being painted solely by “recovery” numbers that are based exclusively on a technical definition—one entirely framed from a containment (outward) rather than patient health (inward) perspective.
Conclusion—Recovered Does Not Equal Healthy
The growing numbers of reported “recovered” Covid-19 patients is continuing to propagate a belief that getting the coronavirus is no different than getting a simple case of the flu—especially among those in the 20-40 age bracket.
Unfortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The real story is that a coronavirus infection could (and likely does) come with some seriously unwelcome baggage—baggage that could last for months, years, or even a lifetime.
And this doesn’t even consider the potential for far more serious long-term consequences that may impact organs, the circulatory system, or the central nervous system (including the brain and cognitive function)—consequences they may not surface until later in life. For more about this, we encourage you to read our article New Covid-19 Concerns: Virus Can Attack the CNS—with Long-Term Consequences?
We need to recognize that “recovered” merely means “no longer contagious”—not “healthy.”
At Wicked Prepping, we always seek to educate—not participate in fear mongering or stoke the flames of panic and/or unrest.
We should not live in fear of the virus. However, we can and should seek to identify the true risks posed by the virus and then seek to mitigate (or at least minimize) them. It’s all about risk management—skewing the risk-reward ratio in our favor.
To accomplish our mission of valuable and actionable education, we present our readers with both the facts as they are available and rational opinions based on those facts—regardless of their popularity or imperfection. Survival is about practical action—not theoretical perfection.
In this case, we continue to warn folks that you do NOT want to get this virus if you can avoid it.
While the long-term consequences of Covid-19 have yet to come into perfect focus, we can certainly identify patterns and trends from the emerging picture.
That true story reads: While you may not die from the virus, you may face a long (even life-long) battle against some pesky and undesirable chronic issues—regardless of your age or pre-Covid level of health and fitness. And, those issues can be both severe and life altering.
We encourage everyone to wear masks while around others in public, and to practice social distancing whenever possible. These steps may not guarantee your safety… but they will significantly reduce your risk exposure. And that’s what actionable information and the prepper mindset is all about!
To learn more about our position on masks, we encourage you to read our article Masks & Social Distancing: The Real Economic Opportunity Cost.
Finally, our future regarding this pandemic is unknown. Anybody who claims to know otherwise is a fool or a charlatan. It’s a probability game… and the odds indicate there is a sizeable risk that things (combined with civil, political, and economic distress) could get much, much worse before they get better.
Therefore, we encourage you to continue steadfast in your prepping. Take advantage of every opportunity to put yourself and your family in the best, most defensible position possible!
We feature links to several prepper-oriented businesses on our site, businesses that offer a wide range of prepping items and materials—companies we personally use and stand behind. We encourage you to make use of them as well! (And it is a great way to help support Wicked Prepping at no cost to yourself!)
As always, hope for the best, plan for the worst, and—in all things—pray!
If you enjoyed and found value in this article, we highly recommend reading Part II in the series: Chronic Covid-19 Syndrome: Long-Tail Recovery Risks Emerge.