Guidelines Say Covid-19 Symptoms Last Two Weeks. Survivors Know Better.

People recovering from Covid-19 are searching for answers themselves

Eleanor Cummins
Elemental
Published in
7 min readMay 20, 2020

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Photo: Westend61/Getty Images

Hannah Davis first ran a fever on March 25. Two months later, the New York musical artist is still sick. In the sleepless weeks in between, her symptoms have spun wildly, like a rickety wheel of fortune. Some days, Davis has been leveled by gastrointestinal issues, rib aches, or kidney pain. Other days, it’s a stiff neck, headaches, or neurological issues that plague her. “I created a fire in my kitchen by accident,” she says. “I forgot my partner’s name at one point.”

Like many people with symptoms, Davis, 32, was never tested for Covid-19. Because doctors considered her symptoms mild, at least by coronavirus standards, she was told to self-isolate at home. But Davis is certain she was infected with the novel pathogen — and that it’s still disrupting her daily life. “It’s such a different disease than [I] have ever experienced before,” she says. “You know you have it. It feels like it’s searching through your body,” looking for vulnerable new tissues to penetrate.

Since it arrived in the United States in February, the coronavirus has infected at least 1.5 million Americans and killed more than 92,000. But for the people who recover, recuperation may not be all it’s cracked up to be. Many people with Covid-19 who have made it out of the hospital alive are permanently scarred by the experience — their muscles atrophied from weeks in bed and organs permanently damaged, often by their own immune system. People with Covid-19 who never left their homes are struggling, too. In the Body Politic Covid-19 Slack support group, which Davis joined in April, she’s encountered hundreds of other people describing stranger symptoms and longer recovery times than anyone anticipated.

“Most of us have start dates, so we can say we’re on day 20 or day 30,” Davis says. When she and I spoke by phone, she was on day 50 of experiencing symptoms.

There is little systematic scientific research on Covid-19 recoveries. That’s partly because recovery takes time — until recently, there haven’t been a lot of people to study. But it has more to do with the unique challenges posed by the pandemic: With many people enduring…

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