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COVID-19 is not the flu

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President Donald Trump shakes hands with supporters upon arrival at the Orlando Sanford International Airport, Monday, March 9, 2020 in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

As we watch various red-state yahoos “open the economy” in ways that are much more likely to lead to a major spike in infections than to materially improve the economy, it’s worth noting the horrible toll that it exacts upon the bodies of many who become symptomatic:

The second day I was sick, I woke up to what felt like hot tar buried deep in my chest. I could not get a deep breath unless I was on all fours. I’m healthy. I’m a runner. I’m 33 years old.

In the emergency room an hour later, I sat on a hospital bed, alone and terrified, my finger hooked to a pulse-oxygen machine. To my right lay a man who could barely speak but coughed constantly. To my left was an older man who said that he had been sick for a month and had a pacemaker. He kept apologizing to the doctors for making so much trouble, and thanking them for taking such good care of him. I can’t stop thinking about him even now.

Finally, Dr. Audrey Tan walked toward me, her kind eyes meeting mine from behind a mask, goggles and a face shield. “Any asthma?” she asked. “Do you smoke? Any pre-existing conditions?” “No, no, none,” I replied. Dr. Tan smiled, then shook her head, almost imperceptibly. “I wish I could do something for you,” she said.

I am one of the lucky ones. I never needed a ventilator. I survived. But 27 days later, I still have lingering pneumonia. I use two inhalers, twice a day. I can’t walk more than a few blocks without stopping.

I want Americans to understand that this virus is making otherwise young, healthy people very, very sick. I want them to know, this is no flu.

Two things really need to be kept in mind as cost/benefit analyses are weighed here:

1)While older people are disproportionately likely to be sick, that doesn’t mean the risk to young, healthy people is minimal — far from it.

2)Contracting COVID-19 is not just a case of a simple dichotomy between a relatively small although still appalling fraction of fatal cases and people who survive and go back to normal. The virus wreaks havoc with lungs and other internal organs in ways that are likely to have long-term ramifications for many people who survive the infection.

Need to be, but at the top federal level at least apparently won’t be.

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