One of the primary metrics cited by people inclined to discount the threat of COVID-19 is the rate at which people are dying from the virus.
And it’s true that fewer people are dying now than they were late last year, when we were caught in the jaws of a vicious second wave. But focusing solely on the mortality rate can be a deadly mistake in and of itself.
Fewer people are dying right now because we’ve done a better job of protecting the oldest and most vulnerable Manitobans. That does not mean, however, that the rest of us face little or no threat.
As we suffer now through a still-rising third wave, we need to shift our attention away from COVID-19-related death and more toward the virus’s long-term health effects. Medical researchers are, quite frankly, still trying to identify and quantify the major after-effects of COVID-19, but what we know now is pretty harrowing stuff.
Along with long–term damage to cardiovascular performance and capacity, COVID–19 can cause brain damage.
Along with long-term damage to cardiovascular performance and capacity, COVID-19 can cause brain damage. Sometimes, this results from a stroke caused by blood clots brought on by the virus. By some estimates, even a younger, healthier person is seven times more likely to suffer a stroke after contracting COVID-19 than from a typical flu virus.
A study in Finland also revealed that some patients who died from the coronavirus but did not show any signs of neurological symptoms were found, upon autopsy, to have suffered significant brain damage.
Having now established that COVID-19 attacks the brain, it’s hardly surprising to learn researchers have found COVID-19 survivors often show levels of cognitive impairment comparable to that in people who have suffered traumatic brain injuries.
Why review this nightmarish list of possible long-term health impacts? Because it’s critically important information, particularly for that segment of the population that continues to ignore or discount the threat posed by COVID-19.
One need only look at daily case counts to know far too many of us are tempting fate on a daily basis. Some of us are still gathering socially in untenable numbers, in defiance of restrictions issued by chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin, sharing tables at bars and restaurants with unvaccinated people outside our household bubbles, and ignoring quarantine requirements when returning from travel or when someone else in our household is awaiting test results.
And that doesn’t even factor in the self-styled libertarian crusaders who eschew masks and vaccines based on some perverse set of ideological principles.
It’s not unusual that so many of us would continue to throw caution to the wind. Whether it’s drunk driving or cancer or COVID-19, we generally prefer to think bad things only happen to other people. By the time we fully understand the fallacy in that reasoning, we’re very likely either sick or dead.
COVID–19 represents a clear and present danger to everyone, and will for some time to come.
Long-term health concerns related to COVID-19 should be top of mind for anyone who hasn’t already caught the virus or been vaccinated. In addition to the aforementioned perils, compromised health from a bout of COVID-19 now could also make you more vulnerable to the next virus to sweep the planet.
COVID-19 represents a clear and present danger to everyone, and will for some time to come. Government needs to be firm in its management of restrictions, but individuals need to acknowledge the risks and act accordingly.
Simply put, there is no joy in saying "I told you so" to a dead person.