PANDEMIC TIMES: Pandemic life, two years later: Where do you fit in? (interactive map)

Two years after the coronavirus pandemic swept through the United States, the masks are coming off. Workers are back in offices, students are back in classrooms, stores and restaurants are open for business. A growing number of Americans are ready to move on.

And yet: More than 15,000 Americans have died of the virus this month alone. Illness, grief, anxiety and disruptions to daily life still afflict millions. Nearly three-quarters of American adults are fully vaccinated, but nearly 25 million children under 5 can’t get that protection.

It will take years to fully absorb and assess how profoundly this virus transformed the country. One way to grapple with the disruption is to consider where you fit in with your fellow Americans. Using a variety of data sources, we have created a series of questions to help you do that. Your answers are confidential and will not be collected.

The official tally of U.S. coronavirus cases to date is about 80 million, but that reflects only confirmed cases reported by the states. Some people have been infected more than once; many others never got tested.

To arrive at a more accurate number, health authorities look at blood tests that detect antibodies from infection. These estimates indicate that more than 140 million Americans — about 43 percent of the population — have had the virus. That’s about double the rate reflected in national case counts.

The severity of covid-19 can vary from person to person based on age, vaccination status, underlying conditions and other factors. Many people experience a mild to moderate flu-like illness. But as these blood test estimates suggest, many infections come and go with no symptoms, enabling the virus to spread stealthily through the population.

Long covid is one of the pandemic’s most vexing problems. There’s still no agreed-upon definition or diagnosis for this condition. It usually appears as a collection of symptoms that can include fatigue, shortness of breath, or “brain fog” lasting four weeks or more after infection.

Between 7.7 million and 23 million people in the United States have had long covid, according to federal estimates. That’s up to 7 percent of all Americans, or up to 16 percent of the 140 million Americans estimated to have gotten the coronavirus. Even mild illness can cause long-lasting symptoms. Tim Kaine, a Democratic senator from Virginia, recovered from a mild case of covid-19 in spring 2020 and said he’s still experiencing nerve problems two years later.

Long covid can be nightmarish for patients and their families. Prolonged exhaustion is robbing some people of the joys of raising children or forcing them to abandon careers. Too sick to return to work, some are facing financial hardship and struggling to get benefits. Patients and doctors say the health-care system is ill-equipped to handle the growing need for specialized care.

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