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The Long Haul – Inside Higher Ed

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Some people who get infected with COVID-19 will have long-term symptoms. What does that mean for colleges?

While college administrators and decision makers have stressed that they are taking the COVID-19 pandemic and its attendant health and safety concerns very seriously, there has been an underlying assumption: students — if they catch the disease — will be fine.

“At least 80 percent of our population is made up of young people, say, 35 and under. All data to date tell us that the COVID-19 virus, while it transmits rapidly in this age group, poses close to zero lethal threat to them,” Mitch Daniels, the president of Purdue University, said in a letter to campus in April, expressing an intent to reopen. “Literally, our students pose a far greater danger to others than the virus poses to them.”

New information released in the months since then has complicated that picture. Increasing evidence suggests that some portion of people who are infected with COVID-19 will continue to experience symptoms of the illness weeks — or even months — later, even if they are young or have a mild case of the virus.

Though persistent COVID-19 symptoms have been written about anecdotally in news media and personal essays, the nitty-gritty that would usually make up scientific and medical knowledge about this condition is still being figured out. In a study of Italian patients, over 87 percent were still suffering from at least one symptom of COVID-19 an average of two months after their initial infection.

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