Lesson of the Day: ‘How Long Covid Exhausts the Body’

Featured Article: “How Long Covid Exhausts the Body” by Josh Keller

Long Covid is a chronic condition that affects millions of people infected with the coronavirus. These people struggle with exhaustion, cognitive problems and other long-lasting symptoms for months and years after initial infection.

In this article, you will learn about the long Covid toll takes on the body, as well as new research that offers clues to the causes of the illness. Then, you will learn more about long Covid by exploring resources for people with the illness and by reading an additional New York Times article.

In your journal, or in a class discussion, reflect on these questions: Have you ever heard of long Covid? What are some of the symptoms of the illness? Do you know anyone who is experiencing long Covid?

Then, learn about one young person’s experience with long Covid by reading this excerpt from a New York Times article:

Will, an Eagle Scout, a talented tennis player and a highly motivated student who loves studying languages ​​so much that he takes both French and Arabic, said he used to feel “taking naps is a waste of sunlight.”

But Covid made him so tired that he could barely leave his bed for 35 days, and he was so dizzy that he had to sit to keep from fainting in the shower. When he returned to his Dallas high school classes, brain fog caused him to see “numbers floating off the page” in math, to forget to turn in a history paper on Japanese Samurai he’d written days earlier and to insert fragments of French into an English assignment.

“I handed it to my teacher, and she was like ‘Will, is this your scratch notes?’” said Will, adding that he worried: “Am I going to be able to be a good student ever again? Because this is really scary.”

After reading the excerpt, reflect on these questions in writing or discussion:

  • What is your reaction to what you just read? Are you surprised? Concerned? Explain.

  • What questions do you have about Will’s experience? What more do you want to know about the long Covid?

Read the article and then answer the following questions:

1. What are the four factors that seem to increase risk for developing long Covid?

2. What is one reason viral genetic material from the coronavirus might remain in the immune systems of some people? How might that contribute to other symptoms?

3. What connection might the Epstein-Barr virus have to how a person’s body responds to an initial Covid infection?

4. How can I understand the various Covid immune system responses, and a patient’s unique problems, help determine treatment for long Covid?

5. Why might patients with long Covid struggle to ride a bike, even if they appear to have normal hearts and lungs?

6. How are doctors like Dr. David M. Systrom, an exercise physiologist, using research to push back against doctors who dismiss patients with long Covid symptoms or “misdiagnose their symptoms as psychosomatic”?

7. How can the persistence of microscopic blood clots and cytokines contribute to low oxygen levels resulting in severe fatigue?

8. Dr. Avindra Nath, the clinical director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, said that long-term neurological problems from Covid are “a major public health crisis.” Why do you think she used this language? Based on what you read in the article, do you agree? Why or why not?

Part I. Reflect

In your journal, respond to what you just read: What is your reaction to the article? What are three things that you think are important for people to know about long Covid? What are two questions you still have about the illness? What is one word or phrase that describes your emotional response to the article?

Part II. Learn

The featured article ends with a list of 13 resources for living with long Covid and four New York Times articles, including the one from the warm-up, that further explore the subject.

Choose one resource from the first section and spend at least 10 minutes exploring it by navigating a website, watching a video or reading an article. Then, respond to these questions:

  • What is the purpose of the resource? Who is the intended audience?

  • What are two things you learned from this source?

  • How might this benefit someone with long Covid, that person’s family or friends or a doctor trying to understand the illness?

  • Summarize what you learned in 140 characters or less, as these three leading researchers — Dr. Amy Proal, Dr. David Putrino and Dr. Akiko Iwasaki — did on Twitter.

If you want to go further, choose one of the four Times articles listed at the bottom of the article and read it in its entirety. As you read, make note of three quotes, facts or figures that you think are important to understanding its main idea.

Part III. Educate

Create a one-pager using the information you have learned from this lesson. Your one-pager should include:

  • Three facts about long Covid

  • Two quotes about the illness

  • An image that demonstrates how long Covid affects the body internally

  • A symbol that represents how long Covid can affect people’s lives

  • A border — using words or images — that represents key themes in all the articles and resources you explored

  • A question you have, or a question that you would like viewers of your one-pager to consider

You can share your final product with classmates, friends and family members. When you look at the other one-pagers in your classroom, are there any themes you notice in most of them? What images or quotes stand out in the other one-pagers?


Want more Lessons of the Day? You can find them all here.

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