Everything "That Friend" Wants You to Know About Covid

We're scratching the surface.

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Illustrissima

There's no limit to what it can steal from you.

Those are the words of Natalie, a Covid survivor who went hiking on her wedding day. Now she spends her life in a darkened bedroom. If you want to see what life with Long Covid looks like, you can watch Dianna Cowern's videos and live streams. Two years ago, she was a YouTuber with millions of followers who posted videos about science. Now she uses what little energy she has to raise awareness.

In late 2023, a world-class trail runner named Emilia Brangefalt killed herself after a Covid infection left her with an unstable heart. Around the world, smart talented young men and women are losing their careers after Covid ravages them. Some of them will recover. Some might benefit from treatment. Many of them will never be the same.

These were musicians, writers, scientists, athletes.

They were the future.

This is what the Covid cautious want our friends and families to understand. It hasn't gone away. It's still here. It's hurting millions of people. Our governments ignore it. Our mainstream media ignore it. Even as they herald the end of democracy, they won't admit the role their Covid denial has played.

Here's what we know:

Based on hundreds of sources, the risk for Long Covid hovers around 10 percent for both adults and children. That's the number given by an important study "The Immunology of Long Covid" in Nature Reviews Immunology. Conditions range from "breathlessness and neurocognitive impairment" to "increased risk of stroke, myocardial infarction, and types 1 and 2 diabetes." As the authors put it, "the oncoming burden of long Covid...is so large as to be unfathomable."

Another study in Medical Review puts the risk for Long Covid even higher, at 10-30 percent for a single mild infection. According to this study, that number doesn't include the organ damage caused by mild and asymptomatic infections. Once you take all the research into account, your risk rises to somewhere between 50 and 70 percent. As the authors state, "well over 50 percent of people...who have contracted Sars-Cov-2 suffer damage to their organs." That's worth repeating:

More than 50 percent.

A Covid infection of any kind makes you 40 percent more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, and 5 times more likely to die in the 18 months after your infection. Just like smokers don't feel the cancer growing inside them, so it goes with those getting repeat Covid infections.

During a widely shared interview series, Lynn Parramore interviewed Phillip Alvelda, a respected biosecurity expert who worked at DARPA and helped craft the pandemic plan that got Biden elected. As Alvelda explains, Covid can infect you without even making you noticeably sick, and it can age every organ in your body by a decade.

Yet another recent study in Nature Human Behavior reached similar conclusions, that Covid infections put anyone at a significantly higher risk for the following conditions:

Guillain-Barre syndrome
Ischaemic stroke
Cognitive deficit
Anxiety disorder
Mood disorder
Encephalitis
Insomnia

Your risk gets higher with every Covid infection. According to a Statistics Canada report, about 40 percent of people develop some kind of Long Covid by their third infection. The evidence so far indicates that your risk only escalates from there.

A study in Nature Medicine confirms that your risk for Long Covid goes up after each infection. As AMA physician Rambod Rouhbakhsh explained during an important interview, "Each subsequent Covid infection will increase your risk of developing chronic health issues like diabetes, kidney disease, organ failure and even mental health problems... It is akin to playing Russian roulette."

You can catch Covid, and you wouldn't even know. Roughly 20 percent or as many as 30 percent of Covid infections never produce any symptoms. A study in The Lancet puts asymptomatic cases as high as 49 percent. Those infections still cause organ damage and cellular aging. So when someone says they've never had Covid, they actually have no idea. Odds are, they had an asymptomatic infection, and it caused damage they won't feel until their second or third round.

They're a ticking time bomb.

It's harder than ever to track Covid and its impact. The CDC has stopped reporting excess mortality, after manipulating their own data. Mandatory reporting on cases and hospitalizations has ended. Most people aren't bothering to test anymore. Accuracy for home tests runs all over the map, as low as 28 percent for a single FlowFlex test. We're relying largely on wastewater data now, collected and monitored by groups like the Pandemic Mitigation Collaborative. It's one of the few remaining metrics available.

Our politicians have colluded with corporate media to convince Americans they don't need to worry about Covid any more. As Julia Doubleday has documented in detail, a constant stream of reckless reporting has erased Covid from public discourse, framing it as a mild nuisance while portraying those who continue to protect themselves as weirdos trying to keep everyone from resuming their prepandemic lives. Meanwhile, insurance companies are changing their eligibility guidelines and denying claims. In many cases, your health insurance provider now requires you to report Covid infections, and they use that information to reject coverage.

You can now find Covid liability disclaimers almost everywhere, including your concert tickets.

Here's Ticket Master:

An inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any place where people gather. COVID-19 is an extremely contagious disease that can lead to severe illness and death. You assume all risks, hazards, and dangers arising from or relating in any way to the risk of contracting COVID-19 or any other communicable disease or illness... whether occurring before, during, or after the event, however caused or contracted

When you go to a concert now, you "voluntarily waive all claims and potential claims against Ticketmaster, Live Nation, Event Providers, and their affiliated companies relating to such risks."

The most blunt, honest assessment of your Covid risk now exists in the terms and conditions section. You can probably find it buried somewhere in the legalese of every event you attend, every trip you take, and every restaurant you walk into. Our politicians lost no time passing Covid liability shields in virtually every state. They've always cared most about protecting businesses, not ordinary people like us. Meanwhile, these same politicians and corporations have pressured our media outlets to lie to us or deliver mixed messages, reporting on Covid's long-term threat while also dismissing it.

Covid ages you.

"You can start thinking about getting Covid almost as an accelerant to aging." That's Ziyad Al-Aly, director of the Clinical Epidemiology Center at Washington University. According to his landmark studies, multiple organs age 3-4 times faster after a Covid infection, even a mild one.

Several studies support this point. A study in Nature Communications found "increasing acceleration of epigenetic aging and telomere attrition in the sequential blood samples from healthy individuals and infected patients developing non-severe and severe Covid-19."

An article in Advanced Biomedical Research reviews several studies on the damage Covid causes, including telomere shaving. As the authors explain, "telomere shortening is a hallmark and major determinant of biological aging." Your telomeres preserve your genome.

They protect your DNA.

If your telomeres shorten, that hurts your body's ability to regenerate organ tissue. It leads to a decline in organ function and eventual organ failure. As the authors of the ABR piece conclude, these post-Covid complications "will lead to premature aging of many people in the world."

Covid causes brain damage and inflammation.

A study in The New England Journal of Medicine found that Covid infection results in a direct drop in your IQ. In their study, those with mild infections lost 3 IQ points. Those with more severe infections lost 6 points. Those who wound up in the ICU lost 9 points. As Ziyad Aly-Aly writes, letting Covid rip has already resulted in "an increase of 2.8 million adults with a level of cognitive impairment that requires significant societal support."

According to Harvard medical professor Anthony Komaroff, “COVID can damage the brain in many ways.”

A recent study in Nature Medicine identified two proteins responsible for memory and concentration problems in post-Covid patients. Researchers at NYU found that the virus can cause direct brain damage, but it often triggers ongoing brain inflammation that could be treated.

We’ve known about the cognitive impacts of Covid since October 2020, when researchers published about it in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, noting a significant impairment “linked to the underlying inflammatory processes.” In other words, we had evidence that Covid caused brain inflammation that lasted for weeks or months after the infection.

According to the American Medical Association, Covid brain fog remains a common and persistent problem for millions. Patients describe “the feeling that their brain is lost in a maze, and they can’t find their way back.”

Here’s Stanford neuroscientist Michelle Monje:

Inflammation in the brain can cause dysregulation of a number of different cell types and have lasting consequences to cognitive function. Understanding that when the pandemic struck and we saw how profoundly immunogenic, how profoundly inflammatory even relatively mild cases of Covid could be, I really worried about a neurological health crisis. And I think we’re watching that unfold right now. The rates of persistent cognitive symptoms in the people who’ve recovered from Covid is frankly alarming.

This Stanford neurologist goes on to describe the “remarkably high rate” of persistent cognitive problems that doctors are seeing in Covid survivors, especially young people. They include struggles with focus and attention, information processing, and memory. Many of these survivors say, “I feel like I have dementia.”

It's happening in mild cases.

Mild infections trigger an immune response that causes brain inflammation. That brain inflammation disrupts the ability of your neurons to communicate with each other. We still don’t know how long it lasts. Some people get back to normal after a few months. Some take years. Others might never recover.

Studies have shown that Covid elevates your risk of memory problems by 77 percent, even in mild cases. They’ve found that Covid can destroy synapses in your brain, resulting in cognitive impairment on par with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Another recent study confirms that Covid can fuse brain cells, hampering their ability to function.

In March, Nature published a review of research confirming brain inflammation from Covid as a key cause of memory and concentration problems. Your immune system triggers inflammation. There's also evidence of direct infection that can age your brain. Scientific American published an overview of studies documenting Covid's cognitive impact. They've shown that Covid survivors routinely face the following:

  1. Cognitive deficits
  2. Memory problems
  3. Prolonged brain inflammation
  4. Fused brain cells
  5. Brain shrinkage

Covid doesn't spare kids. More studies have shown that children and teenagers face the same risk of Long Covid as adults.

A recent study in Pediatrics found that Covid is causing a range of neurological problems in children, along with sleep disorders, lower academic performance, irritability, impulsive behavior, emotional instability, and even suicidal tendencies. As you can see with your own eyes, these problems are widespread in schools, and they're getting worse. Neuroscientists are extremely worried about how Covid harms brain development in adolescents.

Here's a growing list of sources:

We're living through the consequences of infecting everyone with Covid. Even Salon finally joined the chorus to describe what we're seeing as "a mass disabling event." Everyone wonders why test scores keep falling and why children can't read. It's Covid.

Covid attacks your immune system.

A study by the disease-forecasting firm Airfinity confirmed what many experts have been saying for years now, that at least a dozen diseases ranging from measles to tuberculosis "are surging past their pre-pandemic levels in many regions." A study in Family Medicine and Community Health found that Covid infections have made children five and younger much more vulnerable to respiratory infections like RSV. As they conclude, "COVID-19 contributed to the 2022 surge of RSV cases in young children through the large buildup of COVID-19-infected children and the potential long-term adverse effects of COVID-19 on the immune and respiratory system."

The drug manufacturer Merck now lists Covid as the third most common cause of lymphocytopenia, right behind HIV.

What's lymphocytopenia?

It's immunodeficiency.

This condition happens when your body doesn't produce enough white blood cells (lymphocytes) to fight off infections. As Merck says, "COVID-19 can directly infect lymphocytes, and a cytokine-related apoptosis of the cells is likely." A pharmaceutical giant like Merck doesn't say something like that unless it's definitive.

Over the last two years, study after study has shown that catching Covid would make everyone more vulnerable to a wide range of diseases. A study in BMC Medicine found that even a mild case of Covid can disrupt your immune system for months. Another study in Cell found that the disruption can last for at least a year, maybe longer. It could be permanent. Long Covid researcher Wesley Ely has unpacked a major study in Nature describing Covid's effect on the immune system. He declared, "We're immunocompromised... my spidey senses tell me to stay as protected as possible." Not only does Covid attack your white blood cells, it reprograms them to cause blood clots.

You can look for yourself:

If you want to know how your immune system really works, here's Ana Maldonado Contreras with the UMass Chan Medical School. As she explains, your immune system acts more like a rainforest than a muscle. You don't make it stronger by exposing yourself to germs:

Bacteria in our guts can elicit an effective immune response against viruses that not only infect the gut, such as norovirus and rotavirus, but also those infecting the lungs, such as the flu virus. The beneficial gut microbes do this by ordering specialized immune cells to produce potent antiviral proteins that ultimately eliminate viral infections. And the body of a person lacking these beneficial gut bacteria won’t have as strong an immune response to invading viruses. As a result, infections might go unchecked, taking a toll on health.

Getting sick over and over again weakens your immune system. That's why most disease experts recommend masks and clean air, even if they're reluctant to tell the public that for various reasons.

It's hard to keep up with the research chronicling the damage Covid does. We have thousands of studies now.

Thousands.

After the first 2024 presidential debate, liberals were quick to point out the bias and corruption in corporate media. Well, that same corrupt corporate media that was so unfair to Biden has been lying to you for the last two years about Covid. They've often played two different games, quietly commenting on the steady stream of research on Covid's long term harm while promoting stories telling you not to worry, get back to normal.

Even now, as everyone from CNN to MSNBC speculates about the president's cognitive decline, none of them will dare mention the massive failure of public health and the misinformation campaigns they were complicit in. On some level, some of them know exactly what they did.

They teed up fascism.

Your friends and loved ones want you to understand something: They're not living in fear. They're trying to protect themselves from everything described here. They're also trying to protect you. They don't want you to end up like the people described at the beginning of this article, forced to give up careers and weighed down with so much pain they end their own lives.

This article has only scratched the surface of what Covid does, but it describes a future without mitigation. You and everyone you know will keep getting Covid. You probably won't feel that sick at first. Maybe you won't feel sick at all. You might not test positive for Covid. You might mistake some of your infections for a cold or the flu. The more times you get Covid, the more damage it will do, the more it will age you, the more it will hurt you.

We need better vaccines. We need better tests. We need better wastewater tracking. We need more people wearing good masks. We need our governments to subsidize mask manufacturers instead of passing mask bans. We need public investment in clean air. We need local governments to use our tax money on air purifiers and upgraded HVAC instead of cop cities. We need more funding for Long Covid research. If Trump wins, then we will get absolutely none of these things. Ever. Millions of people feel deeply alienated over the current administration's Covid response. They would be more likely to vote if they believed, for a second, that people cared about them.

Browbeating them isn't going to work.

We need you to stand up for the vulnerable instead of kicking them out of public spaces. We need you to stop living in fear of peer pressure and public opinion.

If you value science, truth, and justice...

Show it.


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