I need to talk about the emotional aftermath of Covid-19

I need to talk about the emotional aftermath of Covid-19


norman lebrecht

November 27, 2020

The violinist Alexey Igudesman has lately recovered from Covid-19. He shares his experience exclusively on Slipped Disc. For once, the comedian is being deadly serious. Here’s his story:

I wanted to give everyone a quick message of hope and joy in these dark times and to share my story from the past few weeks. As someone who writes music and tries to spread beautiful melodies and laughter on stage, I have been creating things online to make people smile lately, since it is safer for everyone – it simply hasn’t been possible to spread the love on stage.

My major focus has been a new online YouTube Show called Amuse News, where I provide music news in an amusing yet insightful way, inspired by John Oliver and Trevor Noah. So far, I have interviewed musicians like Daniel Hope and Sean Ono Lennon – in a self-deprecating way – and featured humorous segments by Lucy Landymore, who delivered (purposely) truly terrible music tutorials on instruments she cannot actually play, and Hyung-Joo in “Joo’s Rant.” To have a laugh in the face of the virus, I also released the song, “Corona Nanana.”

The virus caught up with me, and I tested positive for Covid-19 about 2 weeks ago. I was extremely lucky to have had a mild version of it, with no fever. However, I feel the need to talk about the emotional and psychological implications of this virus, which one doesn’t hear much about. In addition to keeping me in self isolation, the virus stripped me of my sense of smell and made breathing difficult at times, as well as leaving me totally exhausted.

Although this may not seem like a big deal, the fear and panic that this caused were devastating.

We hear so many things in the media – things that are contradictory and confusing. On the one hand, one is told that if you are not too old and do not have pre-existing conditions, you will be okay. On the other hand, we have young and healthy people dying.

What the disease does to you psychologically is extremely worrying. The panic and self isolation can cause lack of sleep and terrifying depression – these issues are rarely mentioned. These symptoms cannot simply be turned off. I kept telling myself that I would be okay. Dear close musician friends like Julian Rachlin, Sarah McElravy and Alexandra Preucil were on the phone with me daily, bringing me food and medicine, and giving me moral support. Kind and brilliant doctors spoke calming words to me on the phone.

But at times, the fear and panic were quite overwhelming.

It is important to know that this virus can cause severe neurologic disorders. But it is also important to know that they will go away. I am extremely happy to say that since I tested negative, I have gradually begun feeling better every day. However, I also want to spread the word that we must take this virus seriously. Even a mild version – like what I had – is extremely taxing on your body and mind. The longer we can keep it at bay – until we have better medical treatment options and/or a safe and effective vaccine – the better it will be for everyone.

If someone you know has Covid, please be there for them psychologically, even if you cannot be there in person. And if you get it yourself, remember that having the fear and panic can be part of this treacherous virus, and that it will pass, just like the other symptoms.
Many of us musicians have been hit the hardest economically, with performances having been canceled. Yet most of us are in favor of the stringent measures that have been taken. Refusing to wear a mask, protesting regimes, or complaining that our rights are being impaired are all fine and good until you or a loved one gets sick.

We are not through this yet, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. What we need now is not defiance against “the system” – but solidarity among our fellow humans and all nations. Let us observe Finland, a country with some of the lowest Covid numbers. It is a place where people follow the advice of the government, without even needing to resort to harsh lockdowns. One can argue that social distancing is simply in tune with the brooding culture of the Finns, but their system has been effective. We are on the brink of having a vaccine. Just because we are tired of wearing a mask and being careful does not mean we are right to become complacent.

Creativity can help us through any crisis.

We can make music online – with my start-up, Music Traveler, we are about to launch a revenue-generating streaming possibility for musicians.
We can write and record music.
We can communicate digitally.
And we will all see each other live again soon.
Through the compassion and solidarity that we show each other, we can be there for each other… without even actually being there in person!
Stay strong, stay safe and wear a mask, even though it may feel annoying.
But most of all, be there for each other: digitally for now – and physically, soon.

Warmest greetings to you all,
Aleksey Igudesman



  • Occamsrazor says:

    While in Soviet Union me and everyone I knew had experienced at least every other year and often 2-3 times a year the kind of flu that made people deliriously make their peace with their relatives, fever approaching 40 Celsius and the rest of the symptoms that could make even a genuine Marxist try to pray a little. Loss of the sense of smell and taste is the first symptom of even the mildest of colds. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard someone come back to school or work after 2 weeks and say that he/she nearly died. The fact that people pretend to have forgotten this simple fact of our imperfect life is the worst thing that has ever happened to our species so far.

    • John Kelly says:

      Ah, you’re from the Soviet Union…..a complete explanation of your posts…………….

    • Occamsrazor says:

      https://www.aier.org/article/the-strangely-unscientific-masking-of-america/ Iremember vividly the day, at the tail end of March, when facemasks suddenly became synonymous with morality: either one cared about the lives of others and donned a mask, or one was selfish and refused to do so. The shift occurred virtually overnight.

      Only a day or two before, I had associated this attire solely with surgeons and people living in heavily polluted regions. Now, my friends’ favorite pastime during our weekly Zoom sessions was excoriating people for running or socializing without masks in Prospect Park. I was mystified by their certitude that bits of cloth were the only thing standing between us and mass death, particularly when mere weeks prior, the message from medical experts contradicted this new doctrine.

      On February 29, the U.S. surgeon general infamously tweeted: “Seriously people – STOP BUYING MASKS. . . They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus.” Anthony Fauci, the best-known member of the coronavirus task force, advised Americans not to wear masks around this time. Similarly, in the earliest weeks of the pandemic, the CDC maintained that masks should be worn only by individuals who were symptomatic or caring for a sick person, a position that the WHO stood by even longer.

      As rapidly as mask use became a matter of ethics, the issue transformed into a political one, exemplified by an article printed on March 27 in the New York Times, entitled “More Americans Should Probably Wear Masks for Protection.” The piece was heavy on fear-mongering and light on evidence. While acknowledging that “[t]here is very little data showing that flat surgical masks, in particular, have a protective effect for the general public,” the author went on to argue that they “may be better than nothing,” and cited a couple of studies in which surgical masks ostensibly reduced influenza transmission rates.

      One report reached its conclusion based on observations of a “dummy head attached to a breathing simulator.” Another analyzed use of surgical masks on people experiencing at least two symptoms of acute respiratory illness. Incidentally, not one of these studies involved cloth masks or accounted for real-world mask usage (or misusage) among lay people, and none established efficacy of widespread mask-wearing by people not exhibiting symptoms. There was simply no evidence whatsoever that healthy people ought to wear masks when going about their lives, especially outdoors. Yet by April, to walk the streets of Brooklyn with one’s nose and mouth exposed evoked the sort of reaction that in February would have been reserved for the appearance of a machine gun.

      In short order, the politicization intensified. President Trump refused to wear a mask relatively early on, so resistance to them was equated with support for him. By the same token, Democratic politicians across the board eagerly adopted the garb; accordingly, all good liberals were wearing masks religiously by the beginning of April. Likewise, left-leaning newspapers such as the New York Times and the Washington Post unequivocally promoted mask-wearing after that March 27 article, with no real analysis or consideration of opposing views and evidence.

      The speed with which mask-wearing among the general public transitioned from unheard of to a moral necessity struck me as suspicious. After all, if the science was as airtight as those around me claimed, surely masks would have been recommended by January or February, not to mention during prior infectious disease outbreaks such as the 2009 swine flu. It seemed unlikely that the scientific proof became incontrovertible sometime between late February and late March, particularly in the absence of any new evidence surfacing during that time period.

      Perhaps none of this is particularly surprising in this hyper-political era. What is shocking is the scientific community’s participation in subverting evidence that does not comport with the consensus. A prime example is the Institute of Health Metrics Evaluation’s (“IHME”) rather astounding claim, published in the journal Nature-Medicine and echoed in countless articles afterward, that the lives of 130,000 people could be saved with a nationwide mask mandate.

      As my colleague Phil Magness pointed out in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, the IHME model was predicated upon faulty data: it assumed that 49% of Americans were wearing masks based on a survey conducted between April and June, while claiming that statistic represented the number of Americans wearing masks as of September 21. In fact, by the summer, around 80% of Americans were regularly wearing them. (Ironically, had Dr. Fauci and the Surgeon General not bungled the message in March, mask use probably would have reached much higher rates much earlier on).

      This called into question the accuracy of the 130,000 figure, since many more people habitually used masks than the study presumed.

      Although Magness contacted Nature-Medicine to point out the problem, after stalling for nearly two weeks, the journal declined to address it. Needless to say, the damage had been done: newspapers such as the New York Times undoubtedly would fail to correct the error and any retractions certainly would be placed far from the front page, where the initial article touting the IHME figure appeared. Thus, as expected, the unfounded claim that 130,000 lives could be saved with a nationwide mask-mandate continues to be repeated, including by president-elect Joe Biden and National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins.

      That the science behind mask-wearing is questionable at best is further exemplified by a letter to the editor written in response to Magness’s article. Dr. Christopher Murray acknowledged that rates of mask-wearing have steadily increased, but then concluded that masks should be used because they are “our first line of defense against the pandemic” and current IHME modeling indicates that “if 95% of U.S. residents were to wear masks when leaving home, we could prevent the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans” because “masks work,” and “much deeper pain is ahead if we refuse to wear them.”

      None of this accounts for the failure of either Nature-Medicine or the IHME modelers to recognize and correct the error. Moreover, neither the IHME modelers nor Dr. Murray provide any evidence that masks work. They assume masks are extremely effective at preventing spread of the coronavirus, and then claim that the model is correct for that reason. This sort of circular reasoning is all-too typical of those who so vociferously insist that masks are effective without going to the trouble of substantiating that contention – or differentiating what is likely a modest benefit from mask-wearing in specific indoor locations and around high-risk individuals from the media-driven tendency to depict masks as a silver bullet for stopping the virus in all circumstances.

      Coverage of a recent mask study conducted in Denmark likewise epitomizes the failure of the scientific community to rigorously engage with results that do not fit the prevailing masks-as-a-panacea narrative. The first randomized and controlled study of its kind (another appeared in May but it pertained to flu and had similar results), it found an absence of empirical evidence that masks provide protection to people wearing them, although it apparently did not assess whether they prevent infection of those who encounter the wearer. The report was covered in a New York Times article bearing the patronizing headline, “A New Study Questions Whether Masks Protect Wearers. You Need to Wear Them Anyway.”

      Noting that the results “conflict with those from a number of other studies,” primarily “laboratory examinations of the particles blocked by materials of various types,” the author remarked that, therefore, this research “is not likely to alter public health recommendations in the United States.” Notably, laboratory examinations, as opposed to the Danish study, do not account for the realities of everyday mask usage by non-medical professionals.

      The author then quotes Susan Ellenberg, a biostatistician at the University of Pennsylvania, who claims that the study indicates a trend: “‘in the direction of benefit’ even if the results were not statistically significant. ‘Nothing in this study suggests . . . that it is useless to wear a mask,’” according to Dr. Ellenberg.

      Nor does anything in this study suggest that it is useful to wear a mask, a fact that Dr. Ellenberg (and the headline) conveniently ignores. Furthermore, if a result is statistically insignificant, it should not be used to make the case for any proposition — as even I, a layperson, know.

      Scientists ought to dispassionately analyze data that contradicts their biases and assumptions, and be open to changing their beliefs accordingly. That the results of the only randomized, controlled study were and continue to be automatically discounted demonstrates that, when it comes to the subject of masks, anything approximating the scientific method has gone out the window. That is all the more evident given the lack of interest that mask proponents have shown in conducting a randomized, controlled study themselves.

      An article in the Los Angeles Times went even further: it twisted the findings of the Danish study to argue, incomprehensibly, that the research demonstrated more mask-wearing is warranted. The author cited, as supposedly compelling evidence that masks work, the low Covid-19 death rates in Singapore, Vietnam, and Taiwan. Indeed, according to the latest YouGov poll, administered in mid-November, 83% of Americans now wear masks in public, higher rates than Vietnam (77%) and Taiwan (82%).

      Furthermore, there are other explanations, apart from widespread mask usage, for the remarkably low death rates in these countries. Some scientists believe that previous exposure to other coronaviruses in these regions may confer partial or total immunity to SARS-CoV-2. Others have speculated that obesity, environment or genetics could be the reason that Europe and the United States have substantially higher death rates than many Asian and African countries; after all, obesity is one of the most significant risk factors for severe illness.

      To conclude on the basis of low death rates in several countries that masks prevent coronavirus transmission is patently absurd, illogical, and unscientific. A casual observer might also note that coronavirus cases (albeit not necessarily deaths) are rising in many parts of the world, regardless of mask mandates or rates of implementation. While not a controlled experiment, this fact at least ought to be addressed when making such sweeping claims.

      Ultimately, I do not have the credentials to determine whether or not –or to what extent — masks work. But it is obvious that the issue has become so politicized that mainstream media outlets, politicians, and even scientists seize upon the slightest bit of favorable evidence, dismiss out of hand anything that conflicts with their theory, and most egregiously of all misrepresent the data, to support the conclusion that masks worn by asymptomatic people prevent coronavirus transmission.

      And masks are only one part of this story: school closures, lockdowns, and social distancing all have been dogmatically embraced as a means of controlling infection. The substantial evidence that these mechanisms are not effective, particularly beyond their duration, has been automatically rejected for too long. This is not science: it is politics, and those within the profession who have refused to examine their confirmation biases, or manipulated the evidence to score political points, are utterly unqualified for the job.

      • Marfisa says:

        You merit thanks for posting this well-reasoned AIER article (by Jenin Younes). It will of course attract the bile of many regulars on this site, but it is well worth reading carefully, whatever position one takes on the matter.

        • William Safford says:

          Consider the source: The American Institute of Economic Research.

          “It is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit[5] that partners with the Atlas Network and other Koch-funded think tanks.[6][7]” (Wikipedia)

          That is to say, it is financially supported by the Koch brothers: the people who want you to believe that climate change is a hoax, and who do not want corporations to be taxed or regulated.

          “AIER issued a “Great Barrington Declaration” during the COVID-19 pandemic that called for a herd immunity strategy to deal with the coronavirus.[18] It was roundly condemned by public health experts.[18][19] Anthony Fauci, the White House’s top infectious disease expert, called the declaration “total nonsense” and unscientific.[18] Tyler Cowen, a libertarian economist at George Mason University, criticized the Barrington declaration. He said that while he sympathizes with a libertarian approach to deal with the pandemic, the declaration was dangerous and misguided.[20] The declaration was also criticized by the Niskanen Center,[21] a formerly libertarian think tank[22] that now characterizes itself as moderate.[23]” (Wikipedia)

          These are the people who think that allowing millions of Americans to die to create herd immunity is the answer to the COVID-19 problem.

          • Occamsrazor says:

            William, I guess it makes sense at this point to reveal the main reason behind the current situations taking place simultaneously everywhere as if an unseen conductor gave a sudden cue. The chances of a global pandemic, whether real or fake, coinciding with the unprecedented voting catastrophe and a civil war in one of the 3 nuclear superpowers are zero without a calculated criminal intent. The likelihood of it being a coincidence is the same as that of a person getting shot during a street robbery in Manhattan, being transported to a hospital and being finished off 20 blocks away by a stray bullet hitting him right though the heart while being inside an ambulance and the bullet released during a completely different street crime. If you believe in such coincidences you should play lotteries instead classical music. PS. The reason for the current combination of shitstorms taking place is the scientific fact that the genetic research has recently reached the level that has allowed a few members of the upper echelons of the financial elite to extend their lifespan to 130-150 healthy years. The science available to them within the few next decades will make practical immortality achievable. As you can imagine, when the unwashed masses raise their heads from their buckets of deep-fried chicken a few decades from now and notice that their owners not only drink better liquor and smoke cigars instead of Newport but refuse to kick the bucket, they will demand the same injections for themselves. It’s logical to assume that no planet can support billions of immortal consumers of deep-fried foods. So, the immortal elite can survive only by establishing a total dictatorship with no chance of a mutiny if it hopes to survive because no gene therapy can make one bulletproof. Hence the only solution available which is the final kind, to dump the absolute majority of people and enslave completely a few hundred million needed for maintaining the new simplified system which will be eternal and very easy to control due to the small size. Have your pick of the several vaccines that have suddenly been manufactured at the same time in different countries. Your governments love you and the super-rich are also super-liberal. How could they not be, don’t they all support liberal causes?

          • Marfisa says:

            So an argument is to be judged, not on its merits, but on the political affiliation of the person who makes it? And only right-minded = like-minded people are to be listened to?

          • William Safford says:

            In this instance, you have it backwards.

            The backers are determinative of the meritless outcomes. Their political affiliations serve their pecuniary interests.

          • Occamsrazor says:

            William, you see, conformist mindset is the result of genetics and endocrinological factors. Conformists start early as teachers’ pets, by the time they finish their education and join the workforce their reward system is re-wired just as irreversibly as that of a drug addict. Every act however small of going along with the current agenda coming from whatever entity in charge is giving them a rush of reward neurotransmitter chemicals and the tangible rewards themselves. This situation is observed in every political system and is not exclusively a liberal phenomenon. The history of Nazi countries is the proof. The operation Warp Speed is unique in terms of the end result of conformity. The current conformist’s brain is sending the usual neurotransmitter signals in anticipation of a tangible reward but the reward in this unique case is the vaccine which isn’t like any previous one. PS. Catherine the Great of Russia, who by the way was 100% German, was the first to receive the small pox vaccine in Russia which she did in front of a crowd of her subjects. She owned the land and every living thing on it but she didn’t expect her subjects to be so advanced in their obedience training as to just trust her Majesty’ word on such matters.

          • William Safford says:

            Also, note that the razor continues to troll the board with lies and false information, which, if followed, could lead to additional infections, sicknesses, and deaths.

          • Occamsrazor says:

            While you are at it, tell the principal that you also saw me smoking behind the middle school playground.

          • William Safford says:


  • Beckmesser says:

    It would be better if he told his psychotherapist.
    In times like these some artists just have to attract attention differently.
    Many people have severe symptoms and don’t go public right away. That should be private.

    One have to like him and his programs.
    I personally don’t like the programs (I don’t care about him as a type)
    „Kasperltheater“ on a bad comedic level
    (I am giving my subjective opinion here)

    • Hilary says:

      On the contrary I’m glad he has described the experience.
      In the worst instance there are people out there who think the virus is a hoax, or can just be wilfully allowed to rip through the population. Very few SD readers fall into this category of course.

  • William Safford says:

    Kudos to him for his monograph about his experience with COVID-19. I wish him well in his recovery and return to music.

    I do want to make one small correction.

    “It is important to know that this virus can cause severe neurologic disorders. But it is also important to know that they will go away.”

    It is not a guarantee that the neurologic disorders will go away in all patients. It is becoming increasingly clear that the disease can do permanent, or at least long-term, damage to the body, including neurologic damage.

  • Couperin says:

    Glad he is OK! I performed in the orchestra for an Igudesman & Joo show years ago in Crested Butte, Colorado. They were chill, fun, and unpretentious in their approach to the orchestra and the sometime reluctance of more buttoned-up musicians to “let their hair down” and have some fun. Stay well and thanks for the laughs, dude!

  • Sharon says:

    Guess I just can’t appreciate Russian humor. (I have difficulties appreciating British humor too).
    It’s important to remember that the symptoms can probably persist after people test negative for the virus. As with AIDS people with negative viral loads still have symptoms

  • Ricardo says:

    I’m so glad you got through this successfully. I love your work, now obviously, but also all you did with Triology. Much gratitude for making us laugh without ever compromising on musical standards. Best wishes and please carry on. We need you!

  • E says:

    Yes. The effects are as he describes, “even for a mild version. “Through the compassion and solidarity that
    we show eachother, we can be there for eachother, even
    without being there in person.”