When I’m wearing my face mask, it isn’t to make a political statement. I don’t wear it to prevent me from getting COVID-19, either. I wear it so I won’t give it to you. And that’s not because I think you’ll die, although you could. I wear it out of concern that I will give you COVID-19 and you will live. Because that might be just as bad. Here’s why.
We know most people with COVID-19 make full recoveries and only 1.3% die, according to the University of Washington.
However, if you live, that doesn’t mean you’re OK.
A recent study estimated that 11.8% of those infected in their 60s had symptoms severe enough to be hospitalized. That goes for 16.6% of those in their 70s and 18.4% of those 80 years old and older. If you’re younger, you’re not in the clear, although you’re less likely to be hospitalized. Still, 3.4% in their 30s, 4.3% in their 40s, and 8.2% in their 50s are hospitalized.
Once hospitalized, the probability of additional complications increases, especially for those in intensive care.
Thirty-one percent of seriously ill patients develop blood clots, a rate far greater than those hospitalized for other infectious diseases. The clots then can cause other problems, such as strokes or heart attacks, even in patients younger than 50.
Blood clots also can restrict circulation in limbs. Ask Broadway and television actor Nick Cordero, who spent three weeks in intensive care because of the disease. He then had to have his right leg amputated. He is 41 years old.
Also, while blood clots are a normal danger for intensive care patients, the rates in COVID-19 patients are far higher.
But that’s not all.
Survivors can end up with long-term difficulties breathing and easily become exhausted. Based on other respiratory illnesses, it could take weeks or months before a survivor can breathe normally and have normal levels of energy.
Politico reported that patients who were on ventilators, and in a medically induced coma, can suffer even more severe aftereffects.
Post-intensive care syndrome after discharge is a possibility. That’s a collection of physical, mental and emotional symptoms, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Patients with this often don’t return to their former functional levels for weeks, months or even years.
The cognitive (mental) symptoms can include decreased memory, as well as thinking issues, difficulty talking, forgetfulness, poor concentration and trouble organizing and problem-solving.
Emotionally, survivors might experience post-traumatic stress disorder, with nightmares and unwanted memories. They also might experience anxiety, depression and decreased motivation.
And, physically, they might experience muscle weakness, fatigue, decreased mobility, difficulty breathing and insomnia.
Other COVID-19 patients admitted to the ICU can contract acute respiratory distress syndrome. That’s where our lungs fill with fluid, reducing the oxygen supplied to other organs. The Mayo Clinic says more people are surviving ARDS these days, but many have breathing problems, depression and problems with memory and thinking, as well as tiredness and muscle weakness.
Then there’s the mental health damage. Because recovering in isolation can heighten depression and other mental health disorders, it’s unknown how quickly survivors can return to everyday tasks, such as getting dressed or showering.
The military isn’t taking any chances. The Pentagon says COVID-19 survivors are now permanently disqualified from enlisting, at least for now.
You might be thinking, yes, but what are the odds of me getting COVID-19, being hospitalized, having to be placed in intensive care and, perhaps, put on a ventilator? I agree they’re low, although we don’t know for sure and won’t until we have more experience with it.
However, I can guarantee your odds are much improved if you never contract COVID-19 in the first place.
And that’s why I wear my face mask.
So, when you see me in my mask, don’t criticize. It’s not because I’m afraid of getting COVID-19. It’s because I’m afraid I will give it to you, and you’ll die. Or, perhaps, just as bad, you’ll live.