As we come up on 10 months of the coronavirus in the United States, so much is still uncertain. Unfortunately, people see numbers such as a 4 percent decrease in COVID deaths over the past two weeks, per The New York Times, and think we’re in the clear. But there’s so much we don’t know about the future of the pandemic, and there are many troubling things to be worried about right now. Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), said there are currently three things he’s most worried about with COVID: more young people getting infected, longer recovery, and more long-term damage to other organs.
“The thing that I think we need to be careful and humble about in that we don’t know everything about this infection,” Fauci said during an interview with Trevor Noah on the Sept. 21 episode of The Daily Show. “But what we’re starting to see right now are a couple of things that are troubling to me.”
Fauci said his first worry is how more and more young people are “getting into some significant trouble” with the coronavirus. He admitted that the number of younger people getting infected isn’t necessarily a high percentage, but the amount it has increased is something to be wary about. After all, the American Academy of Pediatrics said that nearly 75,000 new cases in people under the age of 20 were reported in the last two weeks. According to their data from previous weeks, that’s a 15 percent increase in child cases over just two weeks.
That’s not Fauci’s only worry. He said that when it comes to those already infected, “we’re seeing more and more of lingering signs and symptoms.” This means that even when someone has technically recovered from their COVID case, they “may still have weeks or months” where their health isn’t back to normal.
Many recent studies have touched on the aspect of longer recovery times and lingering symptoms—and it seems the list is ever-expanding and can range quite differently from person to person. For instance, a recent Irish study found that women were more likely to experience lingering symptoms of fatigue, even 10 weeks after supposed recovery from the virus. And a September study from the University Clinic of Internal Medicine found that 88 percent of coronavirus patients still showed signs of lung damage six weeks after leaving the hospital, and 47 percent were still experiencing persistent and significant shortness of breath.
And that’s only the surface of the research that has been done on long-term health effects from the coronavirus. Fauci said he was also worried about a significant lingering health issue from the coronavirus: heart problems.
“The final thing is that they’ve recently done a study … where people who recovered, even from disease that wasn’t that severe, when you do MRIs or imaging, sensitive imaging, you can see things like inflammation of the heart,” Fauci said. “Now, they may not be symptomatic, but we want to make sure that six months or a year from now, they don’t wind up with unexplained arrhythmias or premature heart attacks or cardiomyopathies.”
The research Fauci referenced was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Cardiology on July 27. This study used cardiac MRIs on 100 people who had recovered from COVID in the recent months. From this, researchers found heart abnormalities in 78 percent of the recovered patients and “ongoing myocardial inflammation” in 60 percent.
All three of these troubles Fauci has listed makes it clear that the “full impact” of the coronavirus is still unknown. And for more guidance from the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, Dr. Fauci Says You Don’t Need to Wear a Mask in This One Scenario.