The Weekly Dose
July 16, 2020
Welcome to The Weekly Dose! Each week, we will review one scientific article, summarizing the research and providing key takeaways. Our goal in this endeavor is to make science understandable and accessible to all.
A Research Letter 1 published this week in JAMA suggests that a large majority of patients who have been hospitalized for COVID-19 continue to experience symptoms an average of 60 days after symptom onset. The study analyzed data from a sample of 143 participants 2 who were seen in a post-acute outpatient service offered by the Fondazione Policlinico Universitario Agostino Gemelli IRCCS in Rome, Italy. Participants were confirmed to be in the post-acute phase of SARS-CoV-2 based on a negative PCR 3 test. The results indicate that 87.4% of participants reported one or more COVID-19 symptoms after acute-phase recovery. More than half (55.2%) reported 3 or more symptoms. The most common persistent symptoms were fatigue, dyspnea (shortness of breath), joint pain, and chest pain; the least common were diarrhea, myalgia, and vertigo (see graph). Sixty-three percent (63%) of participants indicated worsened quality of life from the pre-COVID-19 period. 4
Key Takeaways:
  • One measure of “recovery” from acute COVID-19 is the absence of active virus. This measure should not be used to infer that recovered patients are free of symptoms. 
  • Some symptoms persist 60 days after they began, and likely influence the quality of life of post-hospitalized COVID-19 patients.
  • More research is necessary to confirm this study’s findings, as the investigation was performed in a specific geographical area, and was based on a small sample of individuals who opted to seek post-acute outpatient treatment.   
1 JAMA’s research letters are brief (maximum 600 words) peer-reviewed studies.
2 Participants averaged 56 years of age and spent an average of 13.5 days in the hospital, 
3 The investigators used a real-time reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction test to confirm that participants did not have evidence of active infection.
4 The determination of “worsened quality of life” was based on a 10-unit decline on a Visual Analog Scale from the pre-COVID-19 period.   

Who is VSC?

Vital Statistics Consulting (VSC) is a healthcare consultancy that specializes in the evaluation of policies and programs and provides independent, rigorous, innovative analysis to support data-driven recommendations that improve healthcare quality and organizational efficiency.
What's New at VSC?
VSC Responds to COVID-19: We have updated our website to reflect our new service offerings, which include customized plans for safe reintroduction of employees to your workplace and comprehensive employee COVID-19 testing and data analysis.

Employee Spotlight
Each week The Weekly Dose will introduce readers to one of our team members.

This week VSC’s Co-Founder & President, Dr. Bill Gallo, is in the “spotlight.” We have asked him three questions, the answers to which reveal some of his professional and personal inspiration to lead an entrepreneurial venture engaged in public health.    

Which people and/or events influenced your decision to work in this field?   

I never really decided to enter the field of public health. Rather, the decision was made for me. My doctoral dissertation, which consisted of two chapters on earnings and labor-market outcomes associated with late-career job loss, was judged by my advisors to be insufficient for the awarding of my degree. So the committee asked me to write a chapter on health effects. The chapter led to a postdoctoral fellowship in epidemiology at a school of medicine, which I leveraged to obtain grant support to fund faculty positions in schools of public health. At some point, I realized that I was never going to return to labor economics.

What was the answer you gave people as a child when asked what you want to be when you grow up? 

I wanted to be a professional athlete, as most boys in my age cohort aspired to be.

What advice would you give yourself 3 years ago? 3 years from now?  

Looking back, I would suggest the following: Read the works of the Stoic philosophers and apply their advice; the road ahead will primarily be uphill. Looking forward, I would tell myself: Keep going; one foot in front of the other. Looking at today, I tell myself: It’s a good thing you’ve chosen such a capable and loyal partner! 
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