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We’re pleased to bring you “While You Were Out”—Verily's quick takes on the happenings of this week.

40 percent of those who contracted COVID struggle to recover fully, study finds

Another study has come out examining the effects of “long COVID,” revealing that many who contract the virus are struggling to recover even months later. Researchers studied tens of thousands of people in Scotland who had had COVID-19, discovering that between “6 and 18 months following symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection, almost half of those infected reported no, or incomplete, recovery.” Specifically, 1 in 20 people had not recovered, and about 4 in 10 had only partially recovered.

There is good news, though: “People with asymptomatic infections are unlikely to suffer long-term effects, and vaccination appears to offer some protection from long COVID,” the Washington Post notes.

The U.S. government estimates that anywhere between 7 million to 23 million Americans have long COVID, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes as “a wide range of new, returning, or ongoing health problems that people experience after being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.” In this recent study, the Washington Post wrote that “the most commonly reported symptoms included breathlessness, palpitations, chest pain and ‘brain fog,’ or reduced mental acuity."

The study, published in Nature Communications on Wednesday, indicates that those who experienced worse cases of COVID are more likely to experience long COVID. However, a large portion of people still experiences the virus’ long-term effects, regardless of the severity of their case.

“It has always been the case that those who are sicker are more likely to have long-term sequelae,” or aftereffects, said David Putrino, director of rehabilitation innovation for the Mount Sinai Health System in New York. “What is frightening is that the mild cases by far outnumber the severe, so even a small percentage of mild cases going on to develop long-term sequelae is a massive public health concern.” —Madeline Fry Schultz

Angela Lansbury passes away

Dame Angela Lansbury, star of Murder, She Wrote and the voice of Mrs. Potts in Beauty and the Beast, died on Tuesday at age 96. Lansbury was a legend of the theater and the silver screen alike, winning six Tony Awards and six Golden Globe awards.

Born in London, Lansbury gained dual British and U.S. citizenship after fleeing war-torn England and moving to the states in 1940. She flitted from small films to plays and even Broadway but struggled to find her big break until 1984.

That year, she was cast as Jessica Fletcher in Murder, She Wrote. Fletcher is a murder mystery-solving widow in a small town in Maine, and despite its modest premise, the show was a smash hit.

“What appealed to me about Jessica Fletcher,” she told the New York Times a year later, “is that I could do what I do best and have little chance to play - a sincere, down-to-earth woman. Mostly, I've played very spectacular b*****s. Jessica has extreme sincerity, compassion, extraordinary intuition. I'm not like her. My imagination runs riot. I'm not a pragmatist. Jessica is.”

The show ran until 1996 and earned her 12 Emmy nominations. In 1991, she voiced Mrs. Potts in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, which she thought of as a gift to her three grandchildren. —MFS

Alex Jones ordered to pay $1 billion to Sandy Hook families

A Connecticut jury ordered conspiracy theorist and Infowars host Alex Jones to pay nearly $1 billion to the families of the Sandy Hook shooting victims after Jones said the shooting was faked to drum up support for gun control.

The 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary shooting is the deadliest in U.S. history, resulting in the deaths of six adults and 20 children. Since the tragedy, Jones has used his platform to spread the lie that the victims’ families were “crisis actors.” The jury on Wednesday ordered Jones to pay $965 million in damages “for the emotional distress the plaintiffs said Jones’s claims … caused them,” per the Washington Post. One lawyer called it “probably one of the largest defamation verdicts in U.S. history.”

The significant amount was intended to address the pain the victims endured because of Jones’ tirades. AP reports, “Erica Lafferty, the daughter of slain Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hochsprung, testified that people mailed rape threats to her house. ‘I wish that after today, I can just be a daughter grieving my mother and stop worrying about the conspiracy theorists,’ Lafferty said outside court. But she predicted that Jones’ ‘hate, lies and conspiracy theories will follow both me and my family through the rest of our days.’”

Livestreaming during the verdict, Jones appeared unrepentant, with his lawyer telling the press it was a “dark day for freedom of speech.”

While plaintiffs say that the verdict can’t change what they went through, they believe it just might prevent Jones and other bad actors from acting similarly.

“Going forward,” plaintiff William Sherlach said, “because, unfortunately, there will be other horrific events like this — people like Alex Jones will have to rethink what they say.” —MFS

War in Ukraine continues as Putin calls Russian actions ‘correct and timely’

On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that his mobilization of army reservists in Ukraine should be complete in two weeks. This statement comes following Putin’s initial announcement at the end of September that 300 thousand Russian citizens would be mobilized to fight in the ongoing war – a decision that was met with protests by the Russian people.

Putin also called his actions in Ukraine “correct and timely” in his ongoing attempt to justify an invasion and war that has become increasingly apparent is not going in Russia’s favor. Additionally, just two weeks after Putin signed decrees to annex the four Ukrainian regions of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, Moscow-installed authorities in Kherson have begun urging residents to evacuate to Russia in anticipation of the arrival of Ukraine’s counter-defense forces.

Over the past week, Russia has launched hundreds of missile strikes on Ukraine, hitting multiple cities, including the capital Kyiv. The strikes have been a chilling reminder for Kyiv citizens of the early days of the war, just as they tentatively felt that they could regain a slight sense of normalcy. —Gabriella Patti

Jury recommends life sentence for 2018 Parkland school shooter

Following a three-month trial, a jury has recommended that the shooter in the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in Parkland, FL., be given life in prison rather than the death penalty.

The shooter, Nikolas Cruz, pled guilty to murdering 17 people after he opened fire on his former high school on Valentine’s Day, 2018. He also wounded 17 other students and school staff members. The jury deliberated for seven hours before reaching their decision.

The Parkland shooting is the deadliest U.S. mass shooting case to ever go to trial. While the jury indicated that the case met the requirements for death penalty eligibility, they decided that the mitigating factors presented by Cruz’s defense team, including information about his troubled upbringing and that his biological mother had abused alcohol and drugs while pregnant, the jury determined that his mental illness meant that he did not merit the death penalty.

Parents and families of victims sobbed and embraced each other as they left the courtroom following the verdict. —GP

Protests continue in Iran

Protests in Iran sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini have entered their fifth week, with activists calling for even more demonstrations. Amini died in the custody of Iran’s morality police for allegedly breaking hijab rules.

Following her arrest and death in Tehran, Iranians have taken to the streets, calling for the end of Iran’s authoritarian regime. Many women have burned their hijabs or publicly cut their hair in protest. This is Iran's most significant protest movement since 2019, with demonstrations in 105 cities in all of Iran’s 31 provinces.

According to the Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights, 185 people have been killed in the Amini protests as the government has tried to crack down on demonstrations. Additionally, videos have circulated online of Iranian police brutality against protesters, and a recent video showed a young woman being sexually assaulted by Iranian anti-riot forces.

The Iranian government has blocked apps such as WhatsApp and Instagram, however, activists have still managed to spread their message and keep the momentum online. While past protests in Iran haven’t led to mass change, many have speculated that this movement might be different, as young people, primarily women, have spearheaded it.

Good News of the Week

A 21-year-old blind woman broke barriers for the blind community by piloting an airplane across the country. Kaiya Armstrong, from Arizona, flew two thousand miles cross country from Arizona to the D.C area in a single-engine Cessna 172 Skyhawk alongside a pilot who provided Armstrong verbal queues as needed.

The Foundation for Blind Children offered Armstrong a chance to learn to fly in March and funded the journey. Armstrong enrolled in a months-long intensive flight program.

“I’ve had to go through extensive ground school and in-flight training just to figure out all the ins and outs and all the details,” Armstrong said. “They were able to get me a poster of the inside and an exact replica, and I was able to Braille it at home, so I put it up on the wall or on the table, and I just sat in front of it and practiced for hours.”

Armstrong lost most of her sight as a young teen to an autoimmune disease. She has limited vision that she describes as “tunnel vision,” but for her, the skies were peaceful, and she was able to observe the colors and the landscape below her and sometimes a brown-dotted view that she said looked like chocolate chip cookies.

“It’s just so interesting what you can see, when you can’t see,” Armstrong added.

Watch of the Week

Watch Angela Lansbury perform the titular song from Beauty and the Beast at the movie's 25th-anniversary screening in 2016.