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By Victoria Rivera

An unvaccinated man goes to the beach and returns with a bad cough. A simple COVID test reveals he’s positive but he’s un­afraid. He’s not immunocompro­mised and knows of others who got over it quickly. The man calls in sick, and sleeps for the rest of the day in fatigue. What follows is a months-long battle with kidney problems, jaundice, fainting spells and full-on nerve damage.

Long COVID continues to pose a serious threat to compromised communities. While Florida no longer mandates quarantine, COVID never left. In 2024 alone, there have been 132,455 confirmed cases, according to the Florida’s Health Department. However, this number may be higher due to unreported or mis­identified diagnoses, particularly “summer flu.”

While it is possible to catch influ­enza during the summertime, it is rare and shows differences from COVID. Observable differences are that COVID can come with the loss of taste and smell, cause skin rashes, and develop red, swollen eyes. COVID’s symptoms on average begin to disappear in ten days but may remain per­sistent for over four weeks. It is after two months of no improve­ments that it can be officially diagnosed as long COVID.

Though the flu shares all other basic symptoms of COVID, it should only last four to 7 days. At most, it may take two weeks for a full recovery.

But due to the similarity in symp­toms, and the commonly held belief COVID has become a non-issue, actual cases of the flu are now mixed up with COVID.

As of last November, according to the National Library of Medi­cine (NIH), three in ten of people with COVID go on to develop long COVID. There are three main COVID variants: ancestral, alpha and omicron. According to the AAFP, omicron variants are the least likely to cause serious long COVID at 16 percent, whereas the ancestral strain has the highest likelihood at 42% chance.

The most dominant COVID variant, JN.1, is closest to the omicron and— while easier to transmit— the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) claims that there’s no evidence of it being more severe in symp­toms. Medicine and vaccines have also proven effective against it, making long COVID less likely to develop. But what happens if you do?

To be diagnosed, your symptoms should have either never left, or unexpectedly returned after a pe­riod of remission. This can mean a person can have constant chest tightness and still be unable to smell or taste after months. New symptoms can arise as well and may become debilitating. Suffer­ers show signs similar to myalgic encephalomyelitis or chronic fatigue syndrome, and can affect the entire body. The NIH also reports that long COVID may have a higher risk for developing Type 2 diabetes.

The most misunderstood symp­tom would be “brain fog.” It is a form of brain damage that affects memory and the ability for someone to concentrate; taking far more time to perform simple tasks or suffering from behavioral changes—depressive moods and constant agitation. Though there is no certain explanation as to why it occurs, theories suggest it may come from COVID’s inflammation to the brain, its disruption of sleep patterns, or causing the immune system to gear into hyper-drive so much it incidentally attacked the brain.

In a study done by a group of doctors two years ago published on JAMANetwork, evidence implies even “mild” forms of long COVID had about half of sufferers reporting brain fog.

In an ideal world, this sum­mer would still be spent social distancing. COVID and other illnesses are only as harmful as the safety precautions you take. At the minimum, simply putting hand sanitizer and keeping your distance can go a long way in keeping everyone safe.

Barry University does not man­date masks but still encourage them when you are sick or there are local spikes in infection rates. In the same vein, vaccination, in­cluding for flu, is strongly encour­aged to remain safe but not a ne­cessity. If you suspect you caught COVID, Barry recommends getting tested. Confirmation re­quires you to isolate yourself for a minimum of five days.

Through www.Covid.Gov and www.Miami.Gov, you can look for your county’s site. This can help you learn not only where to get tested, but also how COVID numbers are in your area. This can help you assess your personal risk, and what precautions are best to take.

“I am fully vaccinated, but the idea of COVID does not cross my mind, especially when I think of the grace that kept my fam­ily and I when so many others died. I never even had it to begin with,” said Junior Dameus, a sophomore philosophy student. “I think Barry has done and con­tinues to do a very good job; even on the laptops, sanitary instruc­tions are a daily reminder. At the nursing department, sanitizing your hands and wearing a mask is still mandatory when you walk through.”

As terrifying as it can be, COVID treatment is getting better. Studies by the NIH have found two-thirds of people with long COVID are beginning to not display severe side effects due to new treatments and the vaccine.

Everyone has the power to help mitigate COVID’s spread by following public health guidelines and remaining educated.


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