UCSF’s Wachter says his wife now likely has long COVID and her health is ‘not great’
ucsf’s wachter says his wife now likely has long covid

UCSF’s Wachter says his wife now likely has long COVID and her health is ‘not great’


Dr. Bob Wachter, UCSF’s chair of medicine, says his wife, Katie Hafner, is doing “not great” weeks after getting COVID-19 and is suffering brain fog and other symptoms.

Providing his Twitter followers with an update on Hafner’s condition following the journalist and author’s positive test in May, Wachter said in a lengthy thread that “many people ask how my wife fared after her COVID case – we truly appreciate the concern. The answer is: not great.”

Five weeks post-infection, Hafner is likely suffering from the symptoms of long COVID, including fatigue and periodic headaches, he said. Noting that she hasn’t yet reached the official long COVID threshold — symptoms persisting two months after infection — Wachter said, “Whatever the definition, it sucks — she’s an amazingly high energy person, & now she’s wiped out most afternoons.”

Hafner, who is vaccinated and double boosted, initially had a mild case of COVID-19.

“Yet here we are, with symptoms that are unpleasant every day, and on some days truly interfere with her ability to work,” said Wachter, who has become one of the Bay Area’s leading voices on COVID-19.

He also questioned whether the antiviral Paxlovid was effective in preventing persistent COVID symptoms despite its ability to reduce the viral load to prevent the most severe outcomes in people who are infected. Wachter pointed to a UCSF clinical trial that found the drug reduced the risk of death and hospitalization by 89%.

Hafner suffered a rebound infection after her course of Paxlovid, which made Wachter wonder if that had increased her odds of long COVID.

“No way to know, but crucial to study,” he said.

Some studies show elevated rates of heart attack, stroke, diabetes, blood clots, and cerebral damage in COVID survivors.

“While there’s always a risk of confounding (ie, that someone with undiagnosed diabetes or heart disease is more susceptible to COVID, so it’s really effect→cause rather than cause→effect), at this point I find the overall conclusions credible,” Wachter said.

He said that left him to face two “disconcerting premises: 1) Tens of millions of people with COVID will have ongoing symptoms that interfere with quality of life; in some they’ll be disabling, & 2) A COVID infection may significantly increase the long-term risk of non-infectious problems like heart attacks, diabetes, & dementia.”

The World Health Organization defines long COVID as symptoms lasting at least two months after infection, without other diagnosis to explain them. A $1.5 billion National Institutes of Health project is studying long COVID and its symptoms, and President Biden has announced the National Research Action Plan on long COVID to accelerate research.

Wachter announced to his legion of social media followers that Hafner had tested positive for the coronavirus on May 8, while the couple was traveling to Palm Springs to visit friends. That was after the couple for more than two years had diligently followed COVID-19 safety measures, avoiding high-risk situations, and he’d shared many threads of pointers via his Twitter account.

Wachter, who had been staying in a hotel room with his wife, managed to avoid the virus by wearing an N95 mask on their drive home and isolating himself once back in San Francisco.

On Monday, he said he is still being cautious, given that cases remain “sky-high” in the Bay Area, and is wearing a mask indoors and avoiding most high-risk situations.

“I hope rates will come down, or we’ll get reassuring news about long COVID, or something else happens that makes me comfortable returning to ‘normal,’” Wachter said. “But with each variant getting more infectious and immune-evasive, I don’t see that happening anytime soon.”

Aidin Vaziri (he/him) is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: [email protected]


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