What happens to most people who get COVID is that these symptoms, while no picnic, may hang around for a week or two, and then people gradually start to feel better.
Cohen says that around the fourth day after the first symptoms appear, and continuing through day 10, things can take a turn for the worse. He says this period is when mild infections may become severe for about 15% to 20% of people who are infected.
What starts to happen is that people become breathless. They may start to pant, especially when they’re trying to walk around and do things.
“Sometimes people just get dizzy or lightheaded, or like their legs are giving out on them. It’s described in different ways,” Cohen says
In a study of over 1,000 patients who came through his clinic, Cohen says he found that this breathlessness — which happens several days after the first symptoms — is like a fingerprint that helps distinguish COVID from other respiratory infections.
“Starting this weekend, tomorrow, especially on Sunday, and going into early next week are going to be the real key days to watch to make sure that things aren’t worsening” for the president, Cohen says.
He says he watches patients who develop this telltale breathlessness very closely over the next 72 hours. If it gets worse with activity, he says, that’s often a signal that their illness is going to be more serious.
Cohen and other experts cautioned that members of the general public shouldn’t infer too much from the outcome of the president’s case.
Trump is getting exceptional medical care that wouldn’t be available to most Americans.
The Regeneron antibody therapy, for example, which works by mimicking the body’s own immune response to the virus, isn’t yet available to the general public.
“This is just one person with COVID. We see that COVID is dramatically different, even with the same risk factors,” Cohen says.
“Let’s say the president has a mild case. That should not reassure anyone that if they get it, they’re going to have a mild case, because it’s so unpredictable and we have seen plenty of people in their 40s who have needed to be hospitalized because of severe disease with no more risk factors than the president has,” Cohen says.