From the beginning, one of the key reasons to limit COVID-19’s spread has been that we know so little about the long-term effects of the disease.

We are beginning to learn more. Recent studies have found troubling associations, including that people who recovered from COVID could be more likely to receive a new diagnosis of diabetes. Another conducted by Northwell Health researchers found older COVID hospital patients on certain types of psychotropic medications were more likely to develop dementia than those who were not. Doctors have seen post-COVID complications in the heart and kidney, and some patients have suffered extended breathing problems.

And a significant number of people suffer from so-called long COVID, with alarming symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog, or shortness of breath long after they seem to have “recovered.” Even less understood, but seriously troubling, are long COVID cases in some children who can struggle with pain or even lost hair after the virus is gone.

It's concerning, yet many people infected with the coronavirus experience mild sickness and don’t have future consequences. There still is lots more to learn, and we are not at the point where the research is proving that COVID is the cause of, for example, those increased diabetes or dementia risks.

But the list of post-COVID issues are reason enough for targeted, common-sense precautions against the scourge.

We're now in the tricky stage of the pandemic. With better treatment options and so many Long Islanders vaccinated, it makes sense to get back to our old normal. But an omicron subvariant-fueled surge has ensnared many —  recent crowded Washington affairs appear to have caused positive tests for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Attorney General Merrick Garland. As big gatherings return to our region, more of us will be infected, too. A key COVID metric, the 7-day average cases per 100,000, has ticked up in New York this week. That could mean more masking, especially if hospitalization rates ramp up.

Less blunt and more strategic interventions are important now, including getting boosted to prevent serious sickness and help block even minor infections that could create future problems. Long Islanders over 50 should consider a second booster for more protection. Free distribution of rapid tests and high-quality masks helps the vulnerable protect themselves. Also necessary is continued study of long COVID and other post-infection complications. The state Department of Health’s February consortium on long COVID was a crucial first step, and must be followed by continued attention to overwhelmed patients who are too often left shuttling between specialists while they navigate strange symptoms.

Most anyone struggling down that long COVID road would rather not deal with this departure from life as usual. All the more reason to do what we can to keep COVID at bay, especially when we have so many simple, non-disruptive tools to do that.

MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.

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