Recovering from COVID-19: A Discharge from Hospital May Only Just Be the Beginning

As new infections from COVID-19 hit record highs across the United States – totaling more than 140,000 in just one day on November 11, 2020, and deaths due to COVID exceeding 165,000, according to the John Hopkins University – hospitals are reaching their capacities.

According to the report of the Commonwealth Fund, the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected Americans and, in particular, Blacks and Latinos, concluding:

Contributing to these poorer outcomes is the far greater likelihood Black and Latino Americans live in poverty and reside in neighborhoods with overcrowded households, air pollution, and inadequate access to health care. Beyond its toll on physical health, the pandemic has pushed the U.S. into an economic recession, which typically impacts already disadvantaged people more severely than the rest of society.

If you or a loved one contracts COVID, the CDC has found that 15% will die (or 3 in 20 patients). Of the 85% who survive (17 out of 20 patients) and are discharged from hospital, the journey to full recovery may only be just starting. In a recent study researchers at Trinity College Dublin found that more than half of recovering patients reported lingering fatigue and concluded:

A lengthy post-infection fatigue burden will impair quality of life and will have significant impact on individuals, employers and healthcare systems.

As Hallie Christine Prescott MD, MSC (Associate Professor, Michigan Medicine) cautions:

“With the virus itself causing severe illness, combined with the challenges of delivering healthcare [for these patients] means that issues after severe COVID-19 may be multiplied, and the time to recovery longer.”

Moreover, the CDC has found that among the 85% who are initially discharged, about one in ten (9%) will be readmitted to the same hospital within 2 months, with readmissions most likely to occur among patients discharged to a skilled nursing facility (15%) or those needing home health care (12%) than among patients discharged to home or self-care (7%).

Unfortunately, for patients with COVID-19, being discharged from the hospital may just be the beginning.

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